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Familiar Face

Lexington’s Hammond honored by
Ky. Thoroughbred Owners

Sports broadcaster receives Warner L. Jones Jr. Award

(December 2016) – You may not recognize the name Tom Hammond, but if you’re a sports fan of any kind, most likely you’ve heard his voice. A lot.
The Lexington, Ky., native has built a long career producing and announcing sports TV broadcasts, starting with college basketball and horse racing, and graduating to coverage of major summer and winter Olympics sports, such as ice skating, diving, gymnastics and track and field. In fact, he is a legend among many who have grown up listening to his familiar voice on the air.
Hammond, 72, was honored for his career-long work Nov. 19 at the Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners’ 29th annual awards dinner, held at Big Spring Country Club in Louisville. Hammond was presented with the group’s Warner L. Jones Jr. Horseman of the Year award.

Photo by Don Ward

Tom Hammond, left, receives his award Nov. 19 from William Malone, the organization’s president.

He joins a long list of horse owners and trainers, journalists and broadcasters across the state of Kentucky who have earned the award, which is named for the late Jones, a leading thoroughbred breeder who oversaw the revitalization of Churchill Downs as the track’s chairman and master of Hermitage Farm in Goshen.
“It is an honor to receive this prestigious award,” said Hammond, who was joined at the dinner with his wife, the former Sheilagh Rogan, and her 97-year-old uncle, Charles Borttorff of Oldham County.
John Asher, vice president of Racing Communications at Churchill Downs, presented the award and introduced Hammond to the crowd.
Hammond spent several minutes recounting some of the more memorable moments of his career while broadcasting major sporting events from around the world, including horse racing and the Olympics.
Among those moments were the recent Olympic track and field gold medal victories by Jamaica sprinter Usain Bolt, the stunning upset figure skating gold medal victory in 2002 by the United States’ Sarah Hughes, and last year’s Triple Crown run by American Pharoah.
“I’ve never heard anything as loud than the crowd at Belmont Park (N.Y.) when American Pharoah came down the stretch (to win the Triple Crown),” Hammond recalled. “The noise was deafening. People standing on tables. It was pure pandemonium.”
Winning jockey took the horse on a victory ride before entering the Winner’s Circle, he recalled. “He took him the length of the grandstand, and it was a wonderful thing.”
Hammond studied equine genetics at the University of Kentucky. During that time he also worked at Keeneland Race Track as a groomsman and walking horses. He began his 33-year sports broadcasting career reading horse racing results on WVLK radio in Lexington. He then worked for 10 years as a sports caster and sports director at WLEX Channel 18 in Lexington. He left in 1980 to start his own Hammond Productions video and sports broadcasting company, primarily featuring Southeastern Conference college basketball games with announcers the late Joe Dean and Larry Conley, a former member of “Rupp’s Runts.”
Hammond’s company also broadcast Keeneland sales, with Hammond reading the pedigrees of the horses as they entered the ring. NBC liked his voice and delivery. So Hammond’s big break came in 1984 when NBC hired him to anchor the network’s coverage of the inaugural Breeder’s Cup, held at Hollywood Park.
NBC liked his work and kept him on, eventually hiring him to handle coverage of Olympics events, starting in 1988. Hammond also handled basketball assignments with legendary Al McGuire and Nancy Lieberman. He was assigned to cover all nine of Bolt’s gold medals at the Olympics. Hammond also has covered NFL and major college football games, and NBA regular-season and playoff games for the network.

Hammond is a Distinguished Alumnus at the University of Kentucky, where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees. In 2001, he was inducted into the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame. He lives in Lexington with his wife. The couple has one daughter and two sons.

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