Tom Hammond To Receive Special Eclipse Award For Career Excellence

Tom Hammond | NBC Sports

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), Daily Racing Form, and the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters (NTWAB) have named dynamic broadcaster Tom Hammond as the recipient of this year's Special Eclipse Award for Career Excellence, the NTRA said in a press release Thursday.

Hammond will receive the honor at the 53rd Annual Eclipse Awards Dinner and Ceremony at The Breakers Palm Beach in Florida on Thursday, Jan. 25.

A native of Lexington, Kentucky, Hammond has enjoyed a much honored and remarkable career as one of the nation's top broadcasters, most prominently as host and anchor for NBC Sports' broadcasts of the Triple Crown races and Breeders' Cup World Championships, and his coverage of a variety of major sporting events.

“I have wanted to be a part of the Thoroughbred industry since I was 15 years old, though I could never have dreamed that involvement would come primarily as an announcer,” said Hammond. “The improbable nature of the Award makes it even sweeter. As I look back on my over 50-year career, I see the many opportunities that the Thoroughbred world has provided to me. No question that I consider the Career Excellence Award to be one of the most meaningful of my life.”

Hammond's passion for Thoroughbred racing evolved early when he earned an animal science degree from the University of Kentucky (UK), specializing in equine genetics, and developed a keen interest in Thoroughbred pedigrees.

His broadcasting career began with WVLK Radio in Lexington, where he was news and sports director. In 1970 and for the next 10 years, Hammond was sports director for WLEX-TV. At that station, and through Hammond Productions, he founded “The Winner's Circle,” a half-hour weekly Thoroughbred program focused on the news and highlights of major races around the country. The production company aimed at the equine industry and pioneered the use of video in the marketing of horses at the sales.

It was also during this period that Hammond began his association with Keeneland, as an announcer at its premier bloodstock auctions, and at Thoroughbred sales in 16 other states.

Hammond's 34-year relationship with NBC Sports dates back to the network's regional college basketball broadcasts in the late 1970s. But his big break came in 1984 when he was hired on what was intended to be a one-time-only basis as a reporter for NBC's telecast of the inaugural Breeders' Cup at Hollywood Park. That program turned into an annual assignment, blossoming into a wide-ranging network career.

Over the next three decades, Hammond was an integral part of NBC Sports, highlighted by horse racing–covering the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes 16 times apiece, and 11 Belmont Stakes. He was a part of multiple Eclipse Award-winning programs for NBC, including the 2022 Feature-Television Eclipse for his narration of the story of Cody Dorman and his bonding with Breeders' Cup Champion Cody's Wish (Curlin).

Said NBC Sports Racing Analyst and co-host of the TDN Writers' Room, Randy Moss, “When Tom would slide into the host chair a couple of hours before the Kentucky Derby, and 'That Voice' would suddenly fill the airwaves, it was a jolt of adrenaline for everyone on the telecast. It was like, “Okay, here we go!” And not only did he bring pure professionalism and experience, from a racing perspective Tom was unique: he called all those big-time sports, but as a native Kentuckian he knew the most about Thoroughbred racing.”

Hammond was inducted into the Joe Hirsch Media Roll of Honor, National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame; a recipient of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Jim McKay Award, and is a member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame.

Hammond and his wife, Sheilagh, have a daughter, Ashley, and two sons, David and Christopher, and six grandchildren.

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