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Durkin Brings Home Old Friend

Published: June 15, 2011 7:46 pm ET

Last Comment: June 18, 2011 8:53 pm ET | 1 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

Tom Durkin is best known as a high profile announcer in thoroughbred racing, calling 12 Kentucky Derbies, 22 Breeders' Cups and his regular gig at the New York Racing Association Tracks. Durkin, however, also called at the Meadowlands harness meet for nine years and called 10 Hambletonians. To this day, he keeps one foot, no, maybe the whole leg, in harness racing.

Recently Durkin was reunited with a member of his harness racing stable, My T Bunny, bought to help bring some happiness to a friend in his final years.

“Greg Drevs, better known as Grubby to us all, was my best friend since we were about 13, since high school,” Durkin said. “He was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2005 and was going through all the treatments, but it had a fatal prognosis. He was real close to Maywood Park in Chicago, so we thought it would be a good idea to go together, buy a horse and we could go out and hang out with the horse. Grubby, Bill Hackett and Greg Mauloff, we were all college buddies at St. Norbert College in Wisconsin.

“We claimed him [My T Bunny] at Saratoga in August of 2008. He won one night at Saratoga [August 30]. Then we moved him to Chicago, where Grubby lived. The last time I saw Greg was when we were at Maywood Park, there were about 30 of us out there. That was the last time I saw Greg alive, it was August of 2009, about two weeks before he died.

“The trainer in Chicago, Dave McCaffrey, went to the same high school Greg and I went to, Fenwick High School in Oak Park, Illinois," he said. The school is one of the country’s top college prep schools, with astronauts and Pulitzer Prize winners among their alumni. "He was great with Grubby, gave him great access, took Grubby’s son Pete out with him on the jog cart one day with 'Bunny.' It was really a wonderful thing. It gave Greg a great amount of pleasure and gave us all an opportunity to get together.”

The team that assembled every time My T Bunny raced also had a uniform of sorts, says Durkin.

“Every time 'Bunny' raced, we had 20 or 30 people out there – with bunny ears on,” Durkin said, laughing. “I was a pretty big bunny. Grubby got them, but they got lost somewhere along the line. He was racing in Chicago, so we needed new bunny ears. I said I would get new bunny ears, so I ordered some bunny ears online and had them delivered to Grubby’s house. He called me and said, ‘These bunny ears, they must be for little kids, they must be about six inches wide.’ I said, ‘So what?’ He goes, ‘We’re going to look stupid!’ As if we wouldn't look stupid in better-fitting bunny ears."

After Drevs’ death in August 2009, My T Bunny returned to his “home” track.

“He’d done well at Saratoga, so we brought him back,” Durkin said. A year later, August 2010, it looked like a change might be in order for My T Bunny.

“'Bunny' always earned his own way and paid for his keep,” Durkin said. “He was having trouble keeping up with the $15,000 claimers, so we put him in for $10,000. We really didn’t think anyone would claim him and when they did [on August 7, 2010] it was, ‘Oh God.’

“His [Drevs’] daughter Jessie was there with a big bunch of us the night he got claimed. Every year, one weekend, a lot of my crew from Chicago comes out. So was his wife Kim. After the race was over, we heard he got claimed and I couldn’t believe it. I had to explain to Jessie what claiming was; she was crestfallen.”

Not content to just let the horse that meant so much to his friend in his last year go, Durkin hatched a plan to get the horse back.

“My friend Joe Spadaro, who’s my partner with my other harness horses, contacted the trainer up in Saratoga,” Durkin said. “He said before you do anything else with him, we’d like to buy him back. If you retire him, let us know what goes on.

“They called me out of the blue [in the spring 2011] and said you can have him, so we took him. He’s at Harold Goodsell’s farm outside Saratoga. He’s taken great care of him, we couldn’t be happier. Bunny’s in a stall on the end so he can look outside. For now he’s in a round pen, so he can get some light exercise, and he’s beautifully taken care of. I go out there and see him when I can, give him his favourite snack of carrots.”

Durkin hopes My T Bunny can eventually find a job to fit his gregarious personality.

“Everybody loves 'Bunny,' he’s the sweetest horse, a really, really nice horse. Every year a group of about 20 of our crew from the West Side [of Chicago] comes to Saratoga and spends the weekend. When they come out they’ll visit 'Bunny' on the farm.

“We’re going to try to get him a useful life, he’s so people-friendly. People just love him, he’s just a nice horse to be around. He’s everybody’s favourite and all the other horses like him, too. He’s a great soul. It doesn’t matter who’s in the stall next to him, they always become good friends. We hope to get him saddle broke and maybe get him with a riding for the handicapped or a program with kids.”


This story courtesy of Harness Racing Communications, a division of the U.S. Trotting Association. For more information, visit www.ustrotting.com.

June 18, 2011 - 8:53 pmWhat a wonderful story

What a wonderful story


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