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21st January 2006

AUSTRALIAN RACECALLERS
Our colourful Melbourne agent got this mention in the Winning Post (21/1/06)

From the feedback they get at Winning Post, their letters page is usually the first read by many of you.

Its contents confirm that punters are an opinionated bunch, and it’s fair to say there are more “potters” in the average edition of Your Say than at Hogwart’s school reunion.

TVN and the Tabcorp-owned Sky certainly coop their share of baggings – mainly, and understandably, over the farcical split that has deprived country home viewers of the best Australian racing.

In recent weeks, however, there have been a number of missives concerned with the pronunciation of horse names by racecallers.

One broadcaster who is rarely mentioned in this category is Jack Styring, who was incidentally the founding editor of the August publication.

Not that Jack escapes the wrath of their readers entirely – several have suggested his style is wearing a little thin and that it might be time for him to make way for a younger caller.

Last week’s letters, for example, opened with a lengthy piece from Daniel James, who got plenty off his chest including a statement that Styring “calling the Cranbourne trials in his own inimitable style is an indictment on Racing Victoria”.

So what is that style?

Well, it is certainly one that adds colour and excitement to the sometimes mundane world of race trails.

To settle the matter once and for all, last Saturday morning I sat the little Richos down in front of the telly and made them sit through TVN’s replay of all 26 of the trials from Cranbourne on January 9.

It didn’t take long for Styring’s “inimitable style” to come through as he described one horse “going as quickly as last week’s wages”.

The clichés flowed thick and fast from then on.

“Straight as a gun barrel.”
“End of the penny section.”
“Going like a scalded cat.”
“Rider sitting as cool as a blanc-mange.”
“Baring molars to the breeze.”

Where “hammer and tongs” gets its derivation, and how Jack knows how fast a scalded cat goes, are matters for further discussion.

Styring found time to compliment his own work when describing heat 17.

“I thought Tarn Princess was doing the better, and you were right, brother,” he said, happily switching from the first person to the second as Robbie Griffith’s mare tuned up for a tilt at the coming sprints with a solid win.

So is this the style of commentary that we are looking for in the 21st century?

On the other hand, TVN’s main Sydney caller is Mark Shean.  While there is little doubt he is a very accurate caller and I don’t recall him making too many errors with the names of horses, there isn’t a lot of excitement in his tone.

Every race, from start to finish, is called in the same vanilla style.

Perhaps Jack goes too far the other way and in the case of trials, where there is no betting or prizemoney riding on the result, his excitement over who wins may be a tad over the top.

Where do I stand?  Probably somewhere in between – I like them accurate but with a level of excitement.

In other words, give me Greg Miles everytime.

Winning Post
Saturday January 21, 2006