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A Few Words of Thanks to Tom Durkin


Tom Durkin calls a turf race during the 2014 Saratoga meet. We’ll miss you!

Like many before and after me, I was romanced to the racetrack courtesy of Tom Durkin, who I heard call the first horse race I ever watched: the 2002 running of the Kentucky Derby, won by War Emblem.

"War Emblem is still there! War Emblem and he’s pulling away! He has another gear!"

"And at the top of the stretch, a filly is in front at the Belmont but Curlin is right there with her! These two in a battle of the sexes at the Belmont Stakes! It is Curlin on the inside, Rags to Riches on the outside! A desperate finish! Rags to Riches and Curlin! They’re coming down to the wire, it’s going to be very close! It’s going to be… a filly in the Belmont!”

"And Jerry Bailey calls on Cigar for everything he has!… And here he is the incomparable, invincible, unbeatable Cigar!”

Winter Memories is in the clear, coming like a gray bullet!… It was a gray blur in the stretch!”

"And Tiznow is battling on! The American Horse of the Year and the Arc winner are heads apart with a furlong to go in the Classic!… Tiznow fights on, here’s the wire! Desperately close! Tiznow wins it for America!”

It was a whirlwind year to be introduced to horse racing, with War Emblem’s near-miss of the Triple Crown and just before that, trading hands from U.S. ownership to Japan. But it would not be the last call of the Derby I would watch that was called by Tom. Funny Cide, Barbaro, Street Sense, Big Brown, Mine That Bird all come to mind. Hearing his voice over the loudspeaker at my first trip to Belmont Park really set the tone for me, like ‘wow, I really am here, and there’s Tom Durkin talking!’ Even though at that moment he was only reading the current list of scratches and track conditions, it was still enough to send a true fan into a tizzy. The emotion of the experience made me even more jealous of those who were able to hear his calls before War Emblem and all the ones I missed in between.

So from my first visit to Belmont in 2012 to my last day at the Saratoga meet yesterday, I’ve enjoyed nothing but Tom Durkin as my race caller when I go to the track. Aqueduct, Belmont, Saratoga… they will never be the same for me from this point on. Like the mighty Secretariat who graced all three NYRA ovals like he did, there will never be another like him.

In a cherished moment of wisdom, I close this post out with a heartfelt thank you to Tom and a reminder to all that everything is temporary.

My Memories of Winter Memories


The first time I watched her I was not a fan.

Normally, I don’t like rooting for favorites, and that is the biggest reason why I did not favor Winter Memories in the 2010 Juvenile Fillies Turf event at the Breeders’ Cup. Instead, I was rooting for my Oaks filly, the Bluegrass Cat do-it-all daughter Kathmanblu. Coming down the stretch, it was Bobby Flay’s filly More Than Real who pulled off the upset, as the gray blur known as Winter Memories got trapped down on the rail to get second. Kathmanblu was a heroic third in a race normally dominated by European-breds. Truth be told, when I first watched Winter Memories, I had little interest in grass races. They were oddities compared to their distant dirt cousins, slow runnings on a fickle surface that varied from spongey to firm, climaxing in a harried and often jumbled dash to the wire when the stretch came into view. What was to love about these races that were won by unfamiliar faces?

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Asked by Anonymous


On the Move

We all can’t wait for this snow shit to melt here in Massachusetts.

Howdy everypony! I’m here to break the Sunday lull with several updates!:

  • A big thanks to Derby Handicappers for making the first two rounds of the contest super interesting and entertaining! Round 3 will be this coming Saturday with the Risen Star (II) at Fair Grounds! I will try to have the submit form go live Wednesday and the analysis up by Thursday afternoon so you all have ample time to get your picks in. I will have the 2nd prize image up by Saturday on the Contest tab.
  • Pony documentary update: Still slowly being setup, but I will announce the super cool fundraising method in a few weeks. I’m sketching out equipment needs right now, but projected costs are a modest, doable $1500-$2000. For the web series, I am trying to decide on the format I think will work best, but hope to shoot this week.
  • Other upcoming posts: Memories of Winter Memories, a post about Tapit’s Derby contenders (waiting on how Mudflats runs today), You Comment I Respond, and the next alternative handicapping method suggested by a follower: my folks have a bunch of leftover fortune cookies!
  • Life update: I might slow up a bit some days on updating the blog due to some changes. I am giving up my rented room in Fitchburg and moving back home so I can take up another (better) part-time job here. I will have to commute a LOT while working 40+ hours a week and going to school full-time. It’s all a necessary evil.

High hoof!


The reasons I love seeing the name “El Prado [IRE]" in a horse’s pedigree, let me count the ways: Artie Schiller, Medaglia d’Oro, Paddy O’Prado, Winter Memories, Kitten’s Joy, Grassy, En Fuego… I’ll stop there with just a few of the first generation before I really get going!

Racing Beat: August 14

Gee… should I keep Winter Memories as the Racing Beat mascot horse? I need to revamp the image anyway.

WinStar has announced plans to stand Take Charge Indy when he is retired. Now there’s a horse I fear will retire by the year’s end if he doesn’t step back up again soon.

I gotta admit… cool names have to do a lot with how much I like a certain horse. If it’s a dumb/lazy name, I probably won’t like him as much.

Gosh… I can’t really decide on a select few favorites at Keeneland September… HOW DO THE SHEIKS DO IT? Oh yeah, they have oil barrels of money… surprisingly enough, a lot of big favorites of mine aren’t by Big Brown or Henrythenavigator like I thought!

Shackleford never had a chance on the off-track of the Vanderbilt (I), but could have probably done better in the previous day’s Whitney (I) where the track was fast and speed held well. Derp moment, much?

Stayclassysandiego, wherever did you go?

You know you’re a nerd when… you pronounce Kauai Katie's name (and would have preferred it to be) Kawaii Katie. Uguu~

I picked Wise Dan for the Fantasy Handicapping Challenge because a) it was off the turf and b) he reminds me most of Fourstardave.

Can an American win the Arlington Million (I) on Saturday? How about it, Reinier?

Azeri must be real proud of her kids, though I don’t know how I feel about Take Control yet.

There’s no good reason why Suffolk Downs shouldn’t get that casino license (this is a very big hot issue right now in Massachusetts as casinos have now been legalized). They’re the only ones to formally apply for one on the eastern side of the state not to mention they can probably have a real nice outfit when all is complete… AND MAYBE THEN THE MASS CAP WILL RETURN!

Shack’s little bro Stephanoatsee is coming back soon! AND O’Prado Again! AND Awesome Feather will run again soon.

My insides sank a little with Know More's victory out west. I would really prefer not to have another I’lll Have Another scenario next year.

The Travers is beginning to feel like last year’s where there isn’t much of a headliner fronting the race. All the Triple Crown winners and runners-up are out/retired. I’m particularly miffed because with no Paynter, I probably won’t get very good odds with Street Life OR Nonios. I might have to work Hansen in there somehow, I’m hoping people are doubting him after that West Virginia Derby. (Also, I’m hoping Called to Serve goes in… I got some fan-freakin-tastic show odds on him!). Heart bet goes to Teeth of the Dog or Street Life, though I will of course have to wait and see how the field shapes up…

If the Breeders’ Cup is the “Superbowl of horse racing,” why are we repeating venues, hmm? Looks like I’m not the only one who is pissed and truly believes it will result in biased outcomes.

I hate to say it, but I kind of saw Awesome Maria's injury-induced retirement coming. Looking at you, Todd Pletcher.

Tweet o’ the Week

I am so ready to leave!

If anyone’s going to be at Saratoga on Saturday, if you see this goofy umbrella on the apron (it’s going to be HOT and sunny), that is me trying to keep my skin from frying off. What, it was too cool to pass up and wound up being $2.22 at Sears! BARGAIN HUNTRESS! I will again be wearing the gray Union Rags & Hansen tee.

Edit: Ohhh never mind… cat umbrella must stay in the car. Umbrellas aren’t legal on the apron according to the NYRA website :’(

I’ve got my snacks (which I have yet to devour, hope that lasts), my little cooler, my chair in case I want to skip the grandstand, and my camera’s charging. Next things to do: gather my travel itinerary, get cash out of the bank, pack, and put gas in the car. I’m itching to leave so I can have a little relaxing “me time” before I get slammed by doing school and work full-time, all while fulfilling one of my childhood dreams of visiting Saratoga. I’m a little sick of home life and now work after I got screeched at in front of everyone this morning for no good reason… THERE SHALL BE JUSTICE FOR THIS DICKERY BEFORE I DEPART.

It’s still too early for me to say for sure, but I’m feeling Hymn Book… OH, AND LA CLOCHE BECAUSE IT’S WINTER MEMORIES' SISTER! I'm finding that one of the best Saratoga strategies is to just run with your favorites, it's anyone's game!

Feel free to challenge me in the free Equibase Saratoga-Del Mar Challenge ($500 in real money prizes) this weekend as well as the Breeders’ Cup Fantasy Handicapping.

High hoof!


El Prado

El Prado

Racing Beat: July 29

Bridgejumpers unite! Someone bet $200k on a horse to show at Canterbury Park (the total card’s handle that day was $146,000 to give you an idea) to make $10k off that bet. Cha-ching!

I feel like it would be an awesome idea to see horses/jockeys dress up like past legends. I don’t know how they would exhibit this to the public, but it would be a cool publicity stunt. I’d fangirl over some Man o’ War nostalgia.

Teen Pauline made me excited to see the future Tapit-Zenyatta foal a whole lot more than I already did.


The two-year-old fillies are officially making a bigger splash thus far than the boys. Bob Baffert trainee Maker or Breaker (an Empire Maker daughter) ran down her stablemate while breaking her maiden, running one of the fastest final 1/8s in the country!

The only reason Ramon Dominguez managed to get 6 wins at Saratoga in one day was because Johnny V was absent. I don’t think that’ll happen again!

HOLD THE PHONE! I thought Belmont was confirmed for the 2013 Breeders’ Cup… why are we still discussing the location?! Put it there so I can actually go!

So You Think [IRE] and Black Caviar should get married…

Best pre-Travers prep race? I missed watching the Haskell (I WOULD HAVE HAD THAT EXACTA!) but as of right now I’m leaning on Street Life to hash it out with Bodemeister.

I was pronouncing Dullahan correctly for months before getting confused watching the Blue Grass Stakes (II) where it was pronounced “DOOL-la-han.” UGH.

I would go off on a tangent right now about how much I dislike Taco’s registered name (Jess’s Dream), but I think Afleetalexandra already wrote it down for me. I pray to God “Bernyatta” isn’t next #killme

I’m hopeful that Winter Memories will make it to the Breeders’ Cup this year. Or at least finishes the year off sans injury… I am so wary of this happening to my favorites.

Tweet o’ the Week is from the Triple Crown’s race caller Larry Collmus!

MARK MY WORDS, WINTER MEMORIES WILL BE AVENGED IN THE DIANA STAKES (I). Swear to God I saw her stumble… (Photo by EquiSport)

MARK MY WORDS, WINTER MEMORIES WILL BE AVENGED IN THE DIANA STAKES (I). Swear to God I saw her stumble… (Photo by EquiSport)

Obsessively providing a comprehensive and personal glance at the sport of kings through original photography, handicapping analysis, editorials, and much more.

Tracks visited: Calder, Saratoga, Belmont, Suffolk, Aqueduct.

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