Retiring track announcer Tom Durkin will call his last Belmont Stakes on Saturday, a race which could go down in horse racing history as California Chrome makes an attempt at the Triple Crown. NY1's Anthony Pascale filed the following report.
"And they're off" are three words that Tom Durkin uses at the beginning of every race he calls. But it's the last few words he will say during Saturday's Belmont stakes that many are anticipating, wondering if California Chrome will win the Triple Crown. For Durkin, just how he will call it is already on his mind.
"I've got a lot of things back in here, we'll see what is elocuted as the race unfolds," Durkin said.
Durkin has been the voice of New York racing since 1990. Saturday will mark his last Belmont Stakes as track announcer. He will retire later this year.
Durkin has called seven Triple Crown tries but never a Triple Crown winner.
"It's probably just the curse of Durkin. That's the way I look at it. If I go 0-for-8 and next year when somebody else is in this booth and calls a Triple Crown winner, that will be put on my tombstone, 'Curse of Durkin,'" Durkin said.
When it comes to work, his race calls are no joking matter. His intense pre-race routine involves memorizing each horse's name and number and marking his program to match the horse with what colors their jockey is wearing. He also studies a book filled with his own catch phrases.
Despite a long successful career, Durkin admits he still gets nervous before a big call. He's expecting the same Saturday when California Chrome attempts to become the 12th horse in history to capture the Triple Crown.
"You know it's so easy to make a mistake in this job, it's that fear of failure and that's anxiety and that's stress," Durkin noted.
Durkin says it's that stress that ultimately played a role in his decision to call it quits, but not before one last chance at what would be a call to remember.
"I was calling fairs in Wisconsin during the 70's when Affirmed won it so I've never seen a horse win the Triple Crown so I'd just love to see it," Durkin said.