I have to admit-- I love horse racing. I have enjoyed watching these races since almost before I can remember. This love of racing came from my earliest days... I was 6 when Secretariat, in the words of the great Chic Anderson "moved like a tremendous machine" at Belmont. I was 11 in 1978 when Affirmed and Alydar had the greatest two-horse duel ever, again at Belmont. Again, Chic Anderson made the call that day, as Affirmed "got a nose out in front... at the wire!"-- and won the Triple Crown by a nose. In 1978, Affirmed won by 1 1/2 lengths, a neck, and a nose over Alydar... still the greatest 2 horse Triple Crown challenge ever.
I was no longer young when Ferdinand took the Derby in 1986. I was a college freshman, when the aged, vernable Bill Shoemaker channeled his inner Jack Nicklaus-- who made a similar run for the ages earlier that year at the Masters--and turned back the clock.
In more recent times, Smarty Jones-- a low pedigree horse-- shocked the world by winning the Derby and Preakness. And I remember the disappointment when Big Brown took the first 2 legs, and completely pooped out at the Belmont-- which was supposed to be his strongest race. And who can forget John Henry? Possibly the greatest horse of all time-- winning race after race when other horses his age were already grandfathers. He was another horse of undistinguished pedigree who became a super-horse.
These horses-- and more-- have made a great impact on me. The other impact-- the men calling the races. My favorites are in this order...
1. Dave Johnson. Still the best TV horse racing announcer ever in my opinion. His pace, style, and verbage were a perfect fit for TV...and I miss him not being there. He called the Affirmed-Alydar Kentucky Derby match in 1978-- his first time on the main TV stage. He was also the voice of the Triple Crown for ABC for many years through the 1980's and into the 1990's.
2. Chic Anderson. Called both the 1973 Triple Crown, and 1978 Belmont for CBS. In my view, he is slightly behind Johnson, but not by much... Was more laid-back than the excitable Johnson, but in his own way, did a great job of conveying the emotion of the moment. His call of the Affirmed-Alydar virtual match race at Belmont was perfect. He died way too early-- of a heart attack in 1979.
3. Tom Durkin. Long-time legendary track announcer, and until this year, the lead announcer for NBC's covereage of the Triple Crown and Breeder's Cup. Not quite on the level of Johnson and Anderson in my opinion, but not that far away either.
These are the horses-- and voices-- that take me back through my history. The only thing missing? Another Triple Crown winner. There hasn't been one since Affirmed in 1978. I thought Big Brown would be next-- but that didn't happen. Will there be another? It's tougher now than it used to be... but it is still the goal. It has now been 35 years... and I hope another super-horse can get it done. Good luck Orb-- you are the next contestant.
That's my take... I'm Tom Lee.