Durkin 2014


NEW YORK CITY (November 14, 2014) - The Turf Publicists of America announced today that its membership has voted recently retired track announcer Tom Durkin as the recipient of this year’s Big Sport of Turfdom Award. The annual honor is bestowed upon a person or group of people who enhance coverage of Thoroughbred racing through cooperation with media and Thoroughbred racing publicists.

Previous winners of the Big Sport of Turfdom Award include jockeys Mike Smith, Pat Day, Laffit Pincay Jr., Chris McCarron, Bill Shoemaker, Angel Cordero Jr., Eddie Arcaro and last year’s winner, Gary Stevens; trainers Bob Baffert, D. Wayne Lukas and Jack Van Berg; as well as individuals who may not be involved in the day-to-day aspect of Thoroughbred racing but made significant contributions to the sport including author Laura Hillenbrand, broadcaster Jim McKay, and actors Tim Conway and Jack Klugman.

“I am delighted to win this Award and join the ranks of some of the people I’ve admired and respected all of my professional life,” Durkin said. “It is thrilling to me to be mentioned in the same sentence as some of those folks.”

Durkin, 63, called the final race of his career on Aug. 31 at Saratoga Race Course. Over 43 years as a track announcer, he elevated the craft by injecting his calls with unprecedented drama and the improvised narratives he summoned enhanced the thrill of race-watching.

Durkin is responsible for many of the most iconic calls in the history of Thoroughbred racing, from “the unconquerable, invincible, unbeatable Cigar” to “Rachel Alexandra raises the rafters here at the Spa!”

Born in Chicago, Durkin studied theatre at St. Norbert College and began calling races at county fairs in Wisconsin in the summer of 1971. In 1975, he moved on to ply his trade at a string of small  tracks including Cahokia Downs, Balmoral Park, Quad City Downs and Miles Park before landing the job at famed Hialeah Park in 1981. Three years later, he was hired as the announcer for the annual Breeders’ Cup, a job he held until 2005, and gained further fame calling the Triple Crown for a decade beginning in 2001.

Overall, he is estimated to have called more than 80,000 races, including at least 40,000 as lead announcer for the New York Racing Association over the past 24 years. Beyond his professional duties, Durkin has been involved in several causes assisting backstretch workers, including New York’s Backstretch Employees Service Team, for which he serves as a board member.

Durkin sat for countless media interviews in the months leading up to his retirement and a report on his historic send-off at Saratoga made the front page of The New York Times.

“For so many of us, our memories of racing’s greatest moments are inextricably linked with Tom’s voice,” said TPA President Mandy Minger. “This award recognizes not only his contributions as an announcer, but as an ambassador. Tributes to Tom’s career permeated the mainstream media this year, capturing the class and generosity of a man who represents the best of our sport.”

Durkin is the first track announcer to receive the Big Sport of Turfdom, which has been awarded annually since 1966.

The Big Sport of Turfdom will be presented at the Race Track Industry Program Awards Luncheon on Tuesday, December 11, emceed by Chris Lincoln. It is part of the 2014 Symposium on Racing & Gaming presented by the University of Arizona at the Westin La Paloma Resort in Tucson, Ariz. The TPA consists of approximately 150 publicity and marketing personnel from racetracks and racing organizations around the country. 


Previous Big Sport of Turfdom Recipients 

2013 - Gary Stevens

2012 - Dale Romans

2011 - Graham Motion

2010 - Mike Smith

2009 - Team Zenyatta

2008 - Larry Jones

2007 - Carl Nazfger

2006 - Dr. Dean Richardson

2005 - Pat Day

2004 - John Servis

2003 - Sackatoga Stable

2002 - Ken and Sue McPeek

2001 - Laura Hillenbrand

2000 - Laffit Pincay, Jr.

1999 - D. Wayne Lukas

1998 - Mike Pegram

1997 - Bob Baffert

1996 - Cigar, Allen Paulson, Bill Mott and
           Jerry Bailey

1995 - Robert and Beverly Lewis

1994 - William A. Croll

1993 - Chris McCarron

1992 - Angel Cordero, Jr.

1991 - Hammer and Oaktown Stable

1990 - Carl Nafzger


1989 - Tim Conway

1988 - Julie Krone

1987 - Jack Van Berg

1986 - Jim McKay

1985 - Laffit Pincay, Jr.

1984 - John Henry

1983 - Joe Hirsch

1982 - Woody Stephens

1981 - John Forsythe

1980 - Jack Klugman

1979 - Laz Barrera

1978 - Ron Turcotte

1977 - Steve Cauthen

1976 - Telly Savalas

1975 - Francis P. Dunne

1974 - Eddie Arcaro

1973 - Penny Chenery

1972 - John Galbreath

1971 - Burt Bacharach

1970 - Saul Rosen

1969 - Bill Shoemaker

1968 - John Nerud

1967 - Mrs. Richard duPont

1966 - E.P.Taylor

Member of the month
May 2011

Patrick Patten is co-founder of the Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance, and has been blogging for over 6 years. He took part in the Mark Kaufman workshop in 2008 about the power of blogs, and joined the TPA shortly after.  He is a homer for Monmouth Park, and when he's not blogging he works in the Natural Gas industry, has a lovely wife, and 3 beautiful daughters who are growing up too fast.