Just putting it out there. What jockeys really mean on Twitter.

March 9, 2013

I enjoy reading what jockeys think on Facebook and Twitter.

It makes us mug punters feel like we’re part of the family. Even if we’re at the table set aside for the kids.

They’re not allowed to tip, but every now and then we get pointed in the right direction.

I love how they support each other. For all the ribbing (and there’s plenty of that), they look after their mates. Especially when the going gets tough.

The likes of Nash Rawiller, Josh Parr, Ryan Wiggins and Luke Nolen are great value. The Pumper has a huge following too. You can hear them cheering when he pinches another one from out front.

Blokes who’ve been around a bit know how to keep the youngsters on track. Chris Munce is forever praising and encouraging. It must mean the world to an apprentice just starting out, to get praise from a legend.

It hasn’t always been like this. Not too many years ago, the only way we’d be able to connect with the little guys and girls would be through the Sunday papers. And even then, there’d be plenty of the same old stories.

“The favourite was just a bit too good on the day”.

“He’ll be tough to beat when he gets up to a mile”.

“He didn’t handle the going. Forget the run”. Blah blah blah.

That’s the beauty of social media. Follow the right people, and you’ll get to hear what they really think.

Imagine if Jim Pike had been on Twitter. Would he have given much away? Or would he have been working on getting a price for Big Red?

@JimPike1 .. Riding Phar Lap again today. The weight is a worry. And the boss has been working him hard. Sure, we won by 10 lengths last start. But he’s vulnerable. Just don’t tell the bookies. #cansomeonegetonforme?

Some of racing’s most famous moments may have been recorded differently. Bill Collins would have loved to be tweeting after the ’82 Cox Plate.

@BillTheAccurateOne .. Just to clarify, when I said Kingston Town couldn’t win, I was talking about the Melbourne Cup. He was ALWAYS going to win the Plate. #cansomeoneerasethetape?

The boys involved in the Fine Cotton debacle would have gone straight to twitter. And stuffed that up too.

@HaydentheGoose .. Bit of a mix up today guys. No harm done. Weren’t we silly billys! #cansomeonecharteracheapflight

If you’re a racing fan and you’re not on Twitter, you’re missing out. Get your kids to explain what to do, and be part of the fun.

You’ll be amazed at what you discover, from the biggest names in the industry. And you’ll have a laugh along the way.

Just don’t trust Jim Pike. I’m sure that Big Red horse goes better than he’s telling us.

Struggling for Facebook pals? Twitter making you twitchy? Make friends with a book.

June 14, 2011

I love a good book. Such a simple pleasure in a complicated time. Learning from the words of others.

Our house wasn’t filled with the classics. I can’t remember if we even had a bookcase. But Mum always seemed to be reading something.

I might be slandering the old boy, but I don’t recall Dad finishing too many books. Newspapers were his go.

He’d pour over the morning paper during smoko at work. Especially the sport pages. Then after a hard day on the tools, he’d check the afternoon editions on our kitchen table.

It was there that he’d tell me whether the journos had got it right. Especially the league writers. What would they know?

I caught his love of the printed word. It wasn’t long before it was my job to buy The Sun and the Daily Mirror.

There were no deliveries in those days. Didn’t need to be. We had the trusty paperboy.

Every afternoon, he’d ride his bike down our street. A teenager with a large cardboard box attached to the handlebars. His whistle would be my cue to dash outside.

All the neighbours would be out too. From memory I was the only kid. He’d weave back and forth across the road, picking us off one by one.

I’d be shattered if that box was empty when he arrived at our house. But always careful not to say anything. Our newsagent on wheels happened to be an amateur boxing champ. He was never robbed.

Books came later. Over the years I’ve collected my own little library. It’s moved with us from place to place.

I’m not big on fiction. Biographies are my go. I love reading about the lives of others. Especially those who have a go. Or inspire. Even those we might despise.

It’s quite a mix in my bookcase. The Reverend Ted Noffs sits beside gangster Neddy Smith. Singo could be next to Dame Edna and Kerry O’Keefe.

This may surprise you, but the likes of John Cash and Dean Martin are on hand. Tom Jones too. Just up from Jack Gibson and Wayne Bennett. Even cricket kook Henry Blofeld. What a dinner party that would be.

Sporting stars, and the people who work with them, fascinate me. Especially those from humble beginnings. So many lessons for the rest of us.

Read the life stories of Lance Armstrong or Andre Agassi, and tell me you’re not motivated. Take a journey with Alfie Langer or Shane Webcke, and try not to cheer. No chance.

I’ve tried to pass my passion on to the kids. We did Fairy Tales at bedtime from an early age. Daughter One loved them. She would order repeats. Sometimes Dad would fall asleep first.

Daughter Two, however, was more for the impromptu. She liked her stories made up, not from a page. Tell me about the moon, Dad. Quite a task, especially after Friday night drinks.

Every year now, we head to the Lifeline Bookfest. For those who haven’t been before, picture the MCG covered with tables of every kind of cheap reading matter.

I head to the Biography table, and snap up a few bargains. The girls find the section for children, and battle with dozens of grandmothers looking for early Christmas presents.

Each finds favourites for a few dollars a pop. Enough to last till next time. And keep them off the i-pod, for an hour or two.

They’re a varied bunch, our fellow book fair visitors. This is an event that attracts all sorts.

Some try to get to the final page while still at the table, in the hope of saving around three dollars. Others are reading so much at home, they’re neglecting personal hygiene. Badly. They tend to get the books they want. Think of the Comic Book guy from The Simpsons.

But at least they ARE reading. Others, it would seem, don’t have time for paperbacks or hard covers. No need to, when your head is buried in Facebook or Twitter.

And that’s a shame. For all the advantages of being plugged into social media, there’s nothing like taking time out, to tackle an old favourite, or find a new friend.

To play my part, I’m taking a stand. Less Facebook, more reading.

Forget Twitter before bed. I’ll be turning pages. With a book that I can smell. No i-pad, thanks. Batteries not required. Besides, I need somewhere to put my Grade Three ‘World’s Greatest Dad’ bookmark.

You can join my campaign. Get the kids involved too. Hopefully we’ll see you at the next Bookfest. Just remember the deodorant.

My secret friendship with Black Caviar, and what she wants to hear tomorrow.

May 13, 2011

I’m friends with Black Caviar on Facebook. We’ve been tight for weeks now. Celebrating each other’s success. Ok, mostly her success.

She’s probably my most exciting friend online. No offence to the rest of you. But really, it’s not much of a contest. Some of my closest acquaintances would need a cab to cover the 1200 metres.

You must know by now that the world’s greatest racehorse is in Brisbane. And she’s the hottest ticket in town. Just a few weeks into the Winter carnival, and they’re about to put the ‘House Full’ sign up at Doomben. Twenty thousand people, coming to see one mighty mare.

She’s running in the BTC Cup. Hardly one of the classics. Remember who won it last year? Probably not. It was Albert the Fat, at 20 to 1. Decent horse, but not Facebook worthy.

Traditionally, it’s a stepping stone to bigger days ahead. The 10,000 and Stradbroke. Not any more. After tomorrow, it might just be the most memorable race ever run here.

People are flying in from around the country, to watch a horse race. Can you believe that? From Cairns, and Townsville, and Sydney, and beyond. And not just racing nuts. Sports fans. Ready to be part of something we might never experience again.

There are very few horses that can hold the interest of non-racing types. Punters are used to our nearest and dearest tuning out the minute we start babbling about odds and weights. How unlucky we were in the last.

Phar Lap could do it. I wasn’t around at the time, even though it might look like I was. Big Red gave hope to thousands during those grim Depression years.

More recently, Makybe Diva had that pulling power. Winning three Melbourne Cups will do that. But would she have sold out Doomben racecourse in early May? Maybe. Maybe not.

Someone asked me this week why Black Caviar is so special. A bloke who loves his sport, but wouldn’t know a hoof from a hat rack. There are some easy answers. Winning 12 consecutive metropolitan races is a start. And doing it with ease. Officially rated the best in the world. Making potential superstars look second-rate.

But it’s more than statistics. It goes deeper. I reckon those playing the bit roles around this mighty mare have plenty to do with the whirlwind romance we’re all caught up in.

Trainer Peter Moody is a bloke you just want to have a beer with. He’s a Queenslander, of course. A bush boy, from out Charleville way. He’d rather have his champion in Brisbane, than mixing with the toffs at Royal Ascot. It’s a huge call to ignore those wolf whistles from overseas.

Jockey Luke Nolan seems a humble guy. Make no mistake, he’s one of the best in the land. But he plays down his role in this show. Reckons she does all the work. He takes her out, she wins, he brings her back.

She’s not owned by a Sheik. Just a bunch of friends who got together, to race a horse. Living the dream. And giving hope to thousands of others, that our own minimal shares might one day turn to gold.

Dare I say, as much as she’s a superstar, there’s a touch of the ordinary about the Black Caviar camp. How good is that. Nothing appeals to the Aussie sports lover more than to think one of us could have been in that group photo with them.

It’s a rare thing for a modern racecourse to hoist the House Full sign. Numbers have been dwindling for years. Too easy to punt on the internet at home, wearing your pyjamas and not walking the length of the straight to find a toilet.

We constantly hear about race clubs trying to attract crowds. Marketing gurus are sometimes involved. Slick slogans and shiny campaigns. Bands and fashion parades and giveaways.

They don’t always work. So what does? What makes 20-thousand people want to catch trains and buses and taxis, to stand shoulder to shoulder on a Saturday afternoon?

A horse. The best horse. They’ll come from far and wide, if they get to see a living legend. So they can tell the grandkids they were there the day Black Caviar made thirteen a lucky number.

She’ll be as short as it gets. No one will care. Watch how many have a dollar bet, and keep the ticket, just so they can frame it for Dad’s wall of fame.

Back on Facebook, we’re both trying to stay relaxed ahead of the big day. I can’t give too much away about our private conversations, except to say, she’ll be winning. No boasting there, and no great surprise. Just fact.

The champ wants to hear the cheers. From the top of the straight, as she unleashes that breathtaking sprint. She wants the flags waved, and the banners hoisted high. And when Luke brings her back to scale, she wants to hear the passion that Queenslanders are famous for.

What a day it will be. If you’re heading to Doomben, soak up every last bit. If not, don’t despair. She’ll have all the details on Facebook. For her friends anyway.