As a young racing fan, I grew up reading Bill Casey and Max Presnell.
While other young kiddies were brushing up on Macbeth and Mark Twain, I was learning about life from two great men of the track.
Casey made journalism look so easy. He was able to take us on his own remarkable journey. From the races to his local pub, we felt like we were at the bar with him.
He loved a laugh. Nothing was taken too seriously. Except when some bumbling administrator ran out of pies, or forgot the racebooks. Then the paint would come off the walls.
He seemed to know everyone. A bulging contact book. And not all the names were above-board. That’s what made his stories so fascinating.
His love of the racing caper jumped off the page. There was a passion, especially when someone had done the wrong thing. And he stressed the importance of history in the art of finding a winner.
Max Presnell does it to this day. Constantly reminding us that everything old is new again. That winning training methods and jockey techniques have been around since Banjo Patterson was leaning on the outer rail.
Speaking of the great Banjo, dig up some of his stuff, if you want to see how racing journalism helped portray our earliest days. Wonderful accounts of hard luck stories and dodgy characters.
It’s those characters that turn a good racing yarn into a cracking one. Because the racetrack, and the agencies involved in the punt, are full of them.
If you haven’t read anything by Les Carlyon, you are missing out big time. No-one writes better accounts of all things Australian. From Gallipoli to Bart Cummings, and all photo-finishes in between.
He can describe a thoroughbred like no other. Reminding us that these amazing animals are more than just horses.
Les understands how trainers think, and why jockeys wait until the 200 metre pole to let loose. He’s able to put us in the thick of an early morning trackwork session, because he’s stood there frozen so many times himself.
Again, the passion shines through. A writer’s love of the industry.
Read Kenny Callander’s book, and you’ll take a trip with a man who has spent a life mixing in circles your mum might not have approved of. If you’re like me, you’ll be jealous. So many adventures, involving so many interesting people.
Like Presnell, Ken has been around since they ran the first Cup. Or so it seems.
His columns today pull no punches. He’ll take jockeys to task for questionable rides. Trainers will be asked how last week’s losing favourite was able to turn things around yesterday. The punter’s pal.
You don’t have to agree with him. That’s the beauty of it. Opinions are like bums. Everyone has one.
I love knowing that my favourite racing journos are mad punters. I want them putting their folding stuff on the things they’re spruiking. Winning and losing like the rest of us.
It pains me to see that Bart Sinclair is about to leave our racing pages. Another master of the game. And such a wonderful, decent man. In a time when hype can take over from fact, Bart gives us information over crap every time. Praise in measured doses, and gentle jibes when needed.
When racing administrators stuffed things up so badly in his home state, no-one was in their ribs more than Bart. He wouldn’t let up. Articles so powerful they ended up running on the front pages instead of the back. It took a while, but Bart won the day.
I like the work of plenty of today’s younger journos too. Nathan Exelby is a fine form analyst, who tells us stories that matter when it comes to making a dollar.
My mate Ben Dorries gets some ripper tales from jockeys and trainers. Stories from real people. An insight into the characters, that most punters don’t get to meet.
Sometimes I wonder if those in the industry’s shiny offices fully appreciate the work of these blokes, and my heroes before them.
More than just tips and results. That rare ability to dig under the surface, and make us love racing even more.
Enjoy their articles today. Share them, so others can too. Our industry has so many great yarns to tell. I reckon old Bill would be nodding from the Upstairs Bar.