Photo courtesy of Bob Coglianese Photos
Tom Durkin will make his final race call on August 31, 2014 at Saratoga racetrack. For those of us who have followed him throughout his stellar career on the NYRA circuit, racing without Tom Durkin is going to take some getting used to. We have been privileged to witness a true master plying his craft with a unique style that is best described as theatrical. In a recent interview with Tom, he said “I get the best seat in the house for the greatest racing. And, there’s a new show every 25 minutes.”
Having always been impressed with his mastery of vocabulary and witty turn of phrase, I asked Tom if his race calls are spontaneous? He replied, “No, they are by no means entirely spontaneous. I do all sorts of preparation.” At this point, he handed me a medium sized notebook filled with handwritten notes, including countless words and phrases. He said, “This is about half of the things I’ve written down. My proper book, which I keep at home, is double that size and I try to read through it on a daily basis. So, some of the stuff is extemporaneous … but, the genesis of it comes from this notebook. And, I still add stuff to it. For example, I had never used the word ‘flagging’ before, so on May 17, 2014 I used the word ‘flagging.’ ” As he tells me this, he points to a recent entry in his notebook.
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On Thursday, January 9th, I had a chance to spend several races in the announcing booth with Larry Collmus, the track announcer at Gulfstream Park. In addition to announcing at Gulfstream Park, he is also the track announcer for Monmouth Park in New Jersey and the voice of the Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup races for NBC Sports. Update: Larry is now the track announcer for Churchill Downs. He will no longer be at Monmouth Park.
Larry was very comfortable with having me in the booth with him, and that allowed me to fire away with questions, while taking periodic breaks for his race-to-race preparations and actual race calls. Here is a replay of our conversation.
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In a previous article we introduced you to the very unique experience of Kentucky Downs racetrack in Franklin, Kentucky. Click here to read that article.
One of the details not included in that article was the pleasure of hearing the track announcer John Lies (pronounced Lees) perform a different style of announcing (or commentating as he likes to call it). With a manner that is both comforting and informative to the listener, John impressed me enough to make a mental note to get to know him better at some future point. With the help of C.J. Johnsen, I made contact with John and render the following interview.
It seems like you have a genuine interest in educating people. Is that your own style and is it unique to Kentucky Downs?
I do aim to do that. And that is something that is more my style than being specific to any racetrack. I take my act to whatever venue we’re at. I do some things similar at Lone Star Park [John is the full-time track announcer at Lone Star], but not identical. At Lone Star we have a paddock presenter, Dave Appleton … just like you heard Gary West doing at Kentucky Downs. I do a pre-race handicapping seminar here at Lone Star that does go out on the simulcast, but then nothing in between the races. [At Kentucky Downs John makes comments in between races about the upcoming race and interacts with Gary in a conversation style.]
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