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Tom Hammond Broadcaster

Wednesday April 26, 2006

For a kid from Lexington who armed himself with a University of Kentucky master's degree in animal science and dreams of becoming a farm manager and, hopefully, someday owning his own Thoroughbred stable, Tom Hammond has certainly come a long way without ever actually straying too far from his old Kentucky home.

Today, the man who started out as a $35-a-week racing reporter for a local radio station is recognized around the world as one of the premiere sports journalists in the business.

With a diverse list of events ranging from the Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup to Olympic track and field, the World Ice Skating Championships, NBA and WNBA basketball, college and arena football, and Southeastern Conference basketball among his regular assignments, Hammond is most respected for his low-key style and the depth of knowledge he brings to any event he covers.

Now, as he prepares to host this year's Kentucky Derby presentation on NBC (5:00 p.m. ET, Saturday, May 6), Hammond has agreed to take time to answer your questions and share his memories and insights on the eve of racing's most special event.

Today, we are privileged to spend a few minutes with one of the best in the business, as broadcasting legend Tom Hammond takes time to visit with us on his way out the door to cover yet another televised sporting event this weekend, while continuing to gather his thoughts in preparation for this year's duties as host of NBC-TV's coverage of the Kentucky Derby.

Miami, FL:
Please tell us about that one single horse race you witnessed that stands above all others.

It's tough to pick just one, but I can narrow it down to two. The first and I guess top race I have seen in person would be the Belmont Stakes in 1978. I was in the track announcer's booth at Belmont Park, standing next to my friend, the late Chic Anderson, as he called the race for both the track and TV. You know the story, Affirmed and Stevie Cauthen going for the Triple Crown against their rival Alydar. They engaged on the backstretch and raced head and head to the wire.....Alydar taking a short lead, but Affirmed somehow willing himself to victory. It was thrilling.....and now in hindsight, even more so since that was our last Triple Crown winner.

The other race that really thrilled me was the 1988 Breeders' Cup Distaff. Personal Ensign, in her final race, trying to remain unbeaten against Winning Colors, returning to the track where she had her greatest moment, winning the Derby. A few yards from home, Personal Ensign seemed beaten--the streak ended--but again, somehow, she found a way to victory and entered the books with her perfect record.

Seattle, WA:
Thanks for taking the time to answer our many questions. I was wondering if you get caught up in having a favorite on race day? I know it must be difficult to try and stay neutral when commentating, but I was wondering how you do it?

I guess I'm kind of old school as far as remaining neutral. I just think that the host should remain neutral, at least in appearance. But I have had plenty of experience with that in my career. Being a University of Kentucky grad and living in Lexington, everyone expects me to be partisan when broadcasting a UK game, but I'm just not. In fact, opposing fans think I am biased toward Kentucky; but UK fans think I bend over backwards to be unbiased and actually favor the other team. I figure that must put me somewhere in the middle. The same thing applies to Notre Dame football, since NBC does all the Irish home games - again, I just try to play it straight - same with the Olympics when a U.S. athlete competes. So, I've had plenty of practice, and it's really not difficult to stay neutral in racing or anything else.

Best of Talkin HorsesTo read the complete transcript of this chat, along with many others, check out Best of Talkiní Horses.

Best of Talkin’ Horses features provocative “chats” with some of Thoroughbred racing’s most prominent names. Adapted from “Talkin’ Horses,” the popular weekly online chat series hosted by, this edited collection provides additional insights by Ron Mitchell, editor and moderator of “Talkin’ Horses."


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