Winstar Farm

WinStar Constellation Spring 2019

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C O N S T E L L A T I O N C O N S T E L L A T I O N A Golden Voice 44 A GOLDEN VOICE Legendary broadcaster and Lexington native Tom Hammond saw his career skyrocket following the inaugural Breeders' Cup in 1984. By Tom Pedulla After making an indelible mark on Thoroughbred racing during an extraordinary broadcasting career that spanned half a century, Tom Hammond occasionally wonders how it all transpired. Hadn't he been the shy, reserved type—hardly the loudest voice in the room—when he attended Lafayette High School in his native Lexington, Ky.? Hadn't he used high school summers to learn about horses from the ground up at Spendthrift Farm? Hadn't he studied animal science at the University of Kentucky and ventured to New York each summer to work for Hall of Fame trainer Sherrill Ward, f irst as a hotwalker and then as a groom? Hammond was doing everything possible to prepare for a career in the racing industry, perhaps as a breeder or farm manager. And then destiny intervened. While Hammond was attending graduate school at the University of Kentucky, he learned of an opening at local radio station WVLK for someone to read race results each night. The pay: $35 per week. He jumped at the opportunity, unsure where it might lead, if anywhere. With his strong work ethic and determination to succeed, the young man was soon hosting his own nightly sports program and reading the news. He distinguished himself in those roles until he became news director and then program director. That led to a television opportunity as sports director at WLEX, the Lexington aff iliate of the National Broadcasting Company, in December, 1969. The pay: $9,600 per year to serve as a one-person sports department. He jumped at it. He would spend the next decade at WLEX, a time that became an invaluable building block in a career that would lead to four Emmy Awards, two Eclipse Awards and his recent selection to the National Museum of Racing's Joe Hirsch Media Roll of Honor. Hammond, now 74, said of the extreme multi-tasking required of him at WLEX, "It was something that helped me later on because I knew all aspects of the business and appreciated what others did." He was never one to stand still. As demanding as his full-time job was, he took on additional responsibility by lending his golden voice to the role of sales announcer at Keeneland. He would build excitement for each racing prospect by reading their pedigrees before the auctioneers swung into action. He was so adept at that key role that he was soon announcing at sales throughout the country. He became such a keen observer of sales that he recognized a void he could f ill by creating Hammond Productions in 1980. Hammond Productions enhanced the way farms presented their yearlings by producing videos of them for potential buyers to study.

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