I spent more Saturdays with John Tapp than any girlfriend. We had a date, once a week, without fail. Him at the track. Me having a cool drink somewhere.
He was the voice I grew up with. Sure, there were others. Ian Craig, Ray ‘Rabbits’ Warren, Bill Collins and Greg Miles. But they were just good friends. Tappy was my man.
My first memory of a racecaller goes back to the great Ken Howard. But only just. I was very young. Sitting around our mustard coloured kitchen table with Mum and Dad.
They would be listening to the daily double. Mum loved him. Dad would get annoyed. Especially when the famous phrase ‘London to a Brick’ came out. Even more so if he was losing.
The memories of Tappy are much stronger. Every Saturday, in the licensed establishment of our choice. We never doubted him. If he called the photo, we’d accept his decision. Can’t recall him getting too many wrong.
He made our rare wins so much more enjoyable. The bloke had a passion for every race he called. Genuine excitement when a good thing saluted. And he seemed to love Mick Dittman as much as we did.
Punters need a bond with their callers. Our job is tough enough as it is. No room for someone who leaves a horse out, or fails to share our optimism.
When I moved north all those years ago, the game changed. Tappy and I began a long distance relationship. He was still number one. But I found others.
Over time, the Queenslanders entered my heart. Especially sweating it out in Cairns.
No Sky Channel at home back then. So it was Wayne Wilson who painted the pictures for me at Eagle Farm and Doomben.
Again, that passion. It would jump out of my radio speaker. Every winner was special. Not that I was on many of them. Wayne made them all sound like champions.
It’s an art, the ability to make people far away feel like they’re trackside. Allow them to share in the joy of victory. I always had the feeling that Wayne was very aware of that in his calls.
I’m now honoured to call him a friend. Funny how this game works. That passion is still there, even though he’s retired. He loves the game, and all those in it.
With so much racing these days, getting such great coverage far and wide, we get to hear more callers than ever. Some reporting in from places that are dots on the map.
Most love what they do. But every now and then, I catch one less than enthusiastic with the task at hand. The class of horse they’re calling. Or the merit in the performance of the winner.
That irks me. Tappy and Wayne never did that. They knew that every race, no matter what it was, was important to someone. Maybe an owner. Maybe a bloke sweating on the trifecta numbers. Somewhere, there would be excitement at what was unfolding.
As long as the new breed of caller remembers that, we’ll get along just fine. Maybe even grow old together. Just like me and Tappy and Wayne.