Racing UK

Angus McNae

“We have just witnessed a felony!” - there’s only one Tom Durkin

30 August 2014

Tom Durkin a master of his art.

The curtain closes on Tom Durkin’s 43-year career on Sunday. After calling the Grade 1 Spinaway at Saratoga, he will drive off into the sunset following a post-race ceremony in the winner’s enclosure.

Make no mistake he is one of the greatest racecourse commentators of all time, if not the greatest and his retirement signals the end of an era. Nobody else has ever brought such a sense of theatre and drama to a call in the way that Durkin did.

Fellow racecourse commentator Larry Collmus recently paid tribute to him saying, "I thought his calls brought the excitement of this game to a new level, and I want to thank him as a race-caller because I think we all got better because of how great his calls were.”

It is impossible to single out any particular calls as being his best. He loved commentating on the Breeders’ Cup races ( 1984 -2005 ) and the success of that international event is in part due to the sense of sporting drama that he brought to every race.

My absolute favourite was the 1994 Distaff won by One Dreamer under Gary Stevens. I have watched the race hundreds of times and my spine still tingles every time I hear Durkin’s call it. As they crossed the line he came up with this brilliant line:

"Ladies and Gentlemen, we have just witnessed a felony; for jockey Gary Stevens has just stolen a one-million dollar horse race! And Tom Hammond, we got it on video tape!!!

In the same race he also used a brilliant phrase, saying, "Gary Stevens is imploring her for one more furlong"

On paper these phrases seem unremarkable but get onto the internet and listen to Durkin delivering them and you will see exactly where I am coming from.

This was but one of many magnificent calls, the like of which we will probably never hear again. Thanks for the memories Tom and happy retirement.

I will be at Sandown today with James Willoughby as my guest and I am really looking forward to it. The card is an excellent one and a day out at Sandown is always pleasurable. It will be so much the better if I can find a winner or two though. I have a couple of selections for you.

Firstly I like Tagula Night in the opener over five furlongs. This horse goes well at the track, is drawn against the favoured far rail, has Ryan Moore on board and hails from the Dean Ivory yard that is going well. Need I say more. He looks certain to be able to sit in just behind the pace early on and Ryan will surely deliver him at the right time. He looks like a decent bet to get us under way at Sandown.

My second selection is Fintry in the Atalanta Stakes at 3.15. Trainer Andre Fabre rarely waists a trip across the channel and this filly has been very impressive in her last two races, winning a Listed contest and a Group Two race. She handles soft ground and has a sharp turn of foot. It is also interesting that Monsieur Fabre has seen fit to give her an entry in the QEII at Ascot on QIPCO British Champions Day. He clearly likes her a lot and, having only raced four times in her career, she rates as having plenty of improvement in her. I make her my best bet of the day by some way.

Today's Selections

3.15 Sandown - Fintry (NAP)
2.05 Sandown - Tagula Night (NB)


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