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Weary Of The Pressure, The Voice Of The Triple Crown Races Walks Away

Announcer Tom Durkin at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y., in May 2008. i i

Announcer Tom Durkin at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y., in May 2008. Julie Jacobson/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Julie Jacobson/AP
Announcer Tom Durkin at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y., in May 2008.

Announcer Tom Durkin at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y., in May 2008.

Julie Jacobson/AP

It's called the "most exciting 2 minutes in sports."

But the Kentucky Derby — and the months surrounding that race and the other two legs of the Triple Crown series — were an incredibly stressful part of Tom Durkin's life.

So the man who's been calling those races for NBC Sports over the last decade is walking away, as New York's Daily News reported this morning. He'll continue to be the track announcer in Saratoga Springs and New York State's other major tracks, but he won't be on the air when millions tune in to see who wins the run for the roses.

"For three months a year [leading to the Derby and through the Belmont Stakes], I'd be walking around with this pit in my stomach," the 60-year-old Durkin told All Things Considered host Melissa Block this afternoon. "You wake up worrying and you go to bed worrying."

Tom Durkin on the pressure

He tried drug therapy, hypnosis and — Durkin jokes — even exercise and healthy eating.

But he would still feel like he was on a three-month adrenaline rush.

"It's like being a baseball player," said Durkin, and "the Derby is like being at bat [when] you're down one run, the man's at second, the count's 3-2, [and] it's the seventh game of the World Series. It's that kind of intensity."

Tom Durkin on what it's like

One call that Durkin says he wishes he could do over is the finish of the 2009 Kentucky Derby, when Mine That Bird came out of nowhere to win and he didn't see what was happening until the very last moment.

2009 Kentucky Derby; Tom Durkin's call of the finish

But he's skillfully called many, many other races, as this video posted by The Saratogian shows:

thoroughbredchat/YouTube

The Associated Press says that Larry Collmus, the track announcer at Monmouth and Gulfstream Park, is expected to replace Durkin on NBC.

This year's Derby is set for May 7. Durkin's conversation with Melissa is due on today's edition of All Things Considered. Click here to find an NPR station that broadcasts or streams the show. Later, we'll add the as-aired version of the interview to the top of this post.

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