Legendary race caller, Tom Durkin reflects on final Belmont Stakes - 06/08/14
After 24 years of calling races on the New York circuit, Tom Durkin has called his final Belmont Stakes. As his legendary voice called the winner, Tonalist under the wire, you cannot help but wonder what could have been. It would have been so fitting to hear Durkin, who will be retiring this summer, call his first Triple Crown winner in his last Belmont Stakes. Unfortunately for Durkin, it was not meant to be.
"I wish I would have been able to see a Triple Crown winner. Me and 102,000 of my closest friends here" Durkin said with a smile.
With the field turning for home in the Belmont Stakes Durkin's voice, competing with the masses, was echoing through the spacious racetrack.
"36 years of hope, compressed into the final three furlongs of the Belmont Stakes" Durkin bellowed through the speakers. And at that moment, you would be hard pressed to find one of the those 102,000 fans who did not think California Chrome was going to be horse racing's first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.
"You had a whole country rooting for California Chrome. He just lost" Durkin said with a shrug, "It just happens."
Briefly reflecting on his long career, looking out over the track where he's called thousands of races, the voice of NYRA has accomplished more than most. While calling California Chrome to a win would have been a crowning moment, there are thousands of other reasons for Durkin to be proud. "I have done so much that I could have ever dreamed of in racing" Durkin said with a chuckle. "Horse racing does not owe me a damn thing."
Despite the outcome of the 1 1/2 mile "Test of the Champion", the voice behind the race for so many years will not allow himself to get hung up on that one result.
"It was a great day" Durkin said, referring to the plethora of stakes races on the Belmont Stakes undercard. "The building was alive" he continued, "Even including the 23 Breeders' Cups I did, it was as exciting a day as I have ever spent at the racetrack."
As the days start to dwindle in his perch above Big Sandy, asked to sum up his decades long career the master of words could only come up with one. Lucky.