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Durkin calls a NYSS winner

August 12, 2011

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A name familiar to racing fans – both Thoroughbred and Standardbred – was heard in the Vernon Downs winner’s circle on Thursday night, Aug. 11. That name was Tom Durkin, the Meadowlands announcer for nine Hambletonians and the voice of the Thoroughbred Triple Crown from 2001 to 2010.

Durkin’s home-bred trotter Coraggioso was in victory lane after winning a $20,922 New York State Fair race by 2 ¼ lengths in 1:59.4 for trainer-driver Phil Fluet.

Durkin told harnessracing.com how he came to be a Standardbred owner.

“Well, I did call nine Hambletonians so I’m not totally a Thoroughbred guy,” said Durkin, the regular announcer at Belmont, Aqueduct and Saratoga in New York. “My business partner and good friend Joe Spadaro is an old-time trainer from the Roosevelt days and a couple of years ago we very modestly started getting some Standardbred stock and one of the horses we bought was Electra.”

Although Electra made just $375 racing, Durkin and Spadaro weren’t put off by that when making the private purchase.

“She hadn’t made a lot of money racing,” Durkin acknowledged. “But she was well-bred and Fred Grant had trained her first foal and he’d said she was one of the most talented and good gaited horses he’d had; she just had a lot of health issues.  So we bought her when she was in foal.”

Coraggioso has won two of five races, with a second and a third as well, and has banked $31,589. He will stick to the New York Sire Stakes circuit and aim for the October finals at Saratoga. Durkin said that even though he is thrilled with the Conway Hall colt’s success, he has yet to see him race.

“We’re just delighted. We’re having a ball, said Durkin. “But I have yet to see the horse race because I am always working when he’s racing, but I have seen him train many, many times.  And he winters in Pinehurst and I’ve seen him down there, too.  In fact, it was his trainer in Pinehurst, Gordon Corey, who first told us we had a good, sensible, nicely-gaited horse on our hands.”

Known for his eloquent race calls, Durkin is naturally in charge of naming the horses he and Spadaro breed.  (The name Coraggioso means brave, courageous and daring.) “I’m an Italian lover so I named him Coraggioso,” he said. “We name them alphabetically. Our first foal out of the mare was called Bravissima, then there was him and the next one will be named Determinato.”

Ironically, as fond of Durkin is of his Standardbreds, he can’t get too close to them. “I am actually allergic to horses,” he laughed. “I’m not a real horsey kind of person, but one of our retired horses My T Bunny is on a farm nearby and I go out and feed him carrots once or twice a week, but I have to wear gloves when I do it and then wash my hands.” (harnessracing.com)

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