Watching the races, in the palm of our hands. What will they think of next?

April 27, 2013

There was a time when punters crowded around the radio to listen to the races.

Such activity often took place in a pub. The public bar. Loud-mouths had to be told to shut it, as Ken Howard brought the field into the straight.

This was before tv, and the internet. A few years after dinosaurs stopped roaming.

I can remember listening to the daily double at the kitchen table. Mum would have had a dollar or two on her favourite jockeys of the time.

Miss a race, through an unexpected visit from a thoughtless relative, and you’d have to wait until the Sunday paper to get the result.

If I’d suggested to Mum that she could find the placings on Twitter, seconds after they crossed the line, she’d have scolded Dad for giving me sips from his large bottle.

Who would have thought things could change so much? From crackly transistor, to world racing in the palm of your hand.

I now have an i-phone. Yes, I’m the last person on the planet to have made the change. And what a change it is.

Multiple betting sites are a tap away. Anywhere in the world. They will take my money, with another tap.

What’s more, I can actually watch races live, on my phone. Sitting on the bus, or the ferry. Or the toilet. With a tap.

There they are, running around Randwick, or Doomben, or Hollywood Park, and I’m not missing a second. On the same device that I can talk to my girls on, and use as a torch. Yep, it does that too. Who thinks of this stuff?

I should add here, for the benefit of any media company financial officers who may have stumbled across these pages, that I will never actually use such a feature on the company phone. I am fully aware of the contract involved, and there is absolutely no need to check my records each month.

No wonder administrators are having trouble keeping up. This new breed of racing fan is so tech-savvy, they expect nothing but the best when it comes to accessing our sport.

And they have zero patience. Don’t give them what they want, and they’ll be gone. To the next smart sport, that provides better online ways to have a punt.

Sadly, I’m unable to offer any help. I’m struggling to make a phone call on the bloody thing. And I don’t know how to retrieve voice mail. Leave me a message, and I might get back to you next year.

But with any luck, I can watch them run around next time I’m at a school dance concert. Mum would be looking for that large bottle right about now.

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.

The best and worst in racing 2012. Or, can someone please find me a winner next year?

December 29, 2012

Just a few days to go, and we’ll be watching fireworks and downing the last cool drinks of the year.

That means it’s time for the racing industry’s most sought after list. The annual Hold All Tickets awards for 2012.

The biggest names in the game will be waking up even earlier, to see if they made a mention. Some will wear it like a badge of honour at the track today. Others will be on the phone to their lawyer.

As usual, send all angry responses to the complaints department. With the 1-hundred dollar fee. Cash or cheque taken.

So here we go. Good luck one and all.

*Greatest Racing Moment.

A host of contenders. But nothing beats Black Caviar at Royal Ascot, notching up win number 22. Just.

What golden theatre. Luke Nolen’s ride, and later, his honesty. Peter Moody’s love of the horse. The fact that she beat the best the Poms could throw up, firing at about 80%.

We were texting and tweeting in the middle of the night. Everyone had an opinion. Sporting gold, and we all felt a part of it.

*The ‘Stick With Me And You’ll Wear Diamonds’ Award.

Green Moon. Good judges knew he would win something big. Bad judges too. Like me. But we all dropped off, just in time for him to stride away with the Melbourne Cup. What were we thinking?

*Trainer Of The Year.

You’ll accuse me of favouring old Queensland boys, but it has to be Peter Moody. His handling of the Mighty Mare has been perfect again. Black Caviar aside, he’s been training winners all over the place. Back a Moody horse, and you know everything has been done to get the nag across the line.

Honourable mentions to Chris Waller, who will keep breaking records in Sydney, and Rob Heathcote. The Group Races will keep coming for Brisbane’s top conditioner. Hopefully a Stradbroke, with a lightly raced maiden coming back from a spell in the coming weeks. No pressure Rob.

And if you’re not backing Desleigh Forster horses, you should be. She’s winning everything. I’d love to be in with her for a Gold Lotto ticket tonight.

*Jockey Of The Year.

Tough. Glen Boss gets the nod, through weight of winners at the top-level. Few enjoy that winning moment better than Bossy. Just ahead of Hugh Bowman. No-one seems to be riding with more confidence at the minute. Nash and Damian have had their problems.

A few to follow for the New Year. Josh Parr will ride a heap of winners in Sydney, now that he’s linked with Moody. A perfect fit. Same for Ryan Wiggins in Brisbane. A highly talented horseman with a fierce competitive streak. It’s no fluke Heathcote is putting him on more and more top chances. And don’t be afraid of whacking your cash on young Tegan Harrison. An apprentice with a superb attitude, on the way up.

*Greatest Annoyance in Racing.

For me, the number of times totes and betting agencies fall down. On-line computer crashes, and phone systems that can’t take a bet. Especially on big days. Tote machines that freeze, the second a bloke is trying to get a bet on. Yes, it happened to me last week.

Is it too much to ask to have reliability, all year round? One crash is one too many. Use some of the millions we punters fork over to you, and get the system fixed.

*Tipster To Follow in 2013

With social media now abuzz with racing, there have never been more tips on offer. Most of them will empty your wallet. One bloke who gets it right more often that not is Nathan Exelby. The Courier Mail’s new head racing journo does all his own form, and is rarely far from the money. Bet on his Brisbane tips with confidence.

*The 2012 Twitter Media Guru

So many to choose from. Richie #richieplz Callander always provides a laugh. Young Andrew Hawkins has an opinion on everything, and does the research  to back those opinions up. The Queensland trio of Ben Dorries, Gerard Daffy and Peter Psaltis are great fun. But we’ll declare joint winners. Andrew Bensley and Ron Dufficy make us feel like old mates. Highly entertaining, and true experts in their field.

*The ‘All Our Support’ award.

Chris Munce. One tough little bugger. His battle with throat cancer begins within weeks. He has all of those in racing in his corner. So, too, does Kristy Banks. Such courage, after a terrible fall. An inspiration to us all.

And finally, ‘The Horse To Surprise You All in 2013’.

Pintuck. But don’t tell anyone. Not until we get a price for him, anyway.

So there you have it. A few hundred pointless words to fill my final racing blog of the year.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these scribblings. Thanks for the feedback, good and bad. It’s nice to know the handful of you out there are still on board.

To you and your family, have a wonderful New Year. Here’s to a year of backing more winners than our pockets can hold.

Finding a winner on Twitter. The racing names you should be following.

August 18, 2012

It will surprise many to discover that the racing industry, traditionally home to old farts, has become a leader in making the most of social media.

If you’re a punter, and you’re not on Twitter, you’re not in the game. Almost overnight, the major players have gathered in one place. And you can find them on your phone or computer.

Few sports use the medium better. Probably because everyone involved in racing has an opinion. Instead of yelling over the parade ring fence, we now tweet.

There are some stars, who you must follow. There are some dills too. You’ll work them out for yourself.

If you’re just starting out, fear not. Here’s the list of the people who matter, to get you up and running.

After you find your mum, dad, partner, kids, boss and bookie, your priority is to add Andrew Bensley. His Twitter name is @AndrewBensley (Newcomers, you’ll see that look frequently from here on. Twitter identities always start with an @).

The big man from Sky is a Twitter freak. The most prolific I know. He’s sent out more than 10,000 tweets, and shows no sign of slowing down.

Follow him, and you’ll receive all the racing news you’ll ever need. And then some. What the trainers are saying. Which way the jockeys are leaning. Who starred at trackwork, and the big improvers.

It’s a constant flow of golden information, that punters of old could only dream of. Ignore him at your peril.

The next must have is his mate, Ron Dufficy .. @DufficyRon. The Duff tells it like it is. He spares no-one, and is particularly scathing when administrators get out of line.

Not as many tips, but plenty of fun. And when he likes one, get on.

Another favourite of mine, is someone plenty of you won’t have heard of. A young racing journo on the up, by the name of Andrew Hawkins .. @AndrewNJHawkins. Andrew lives and breathes racing. For a young bloke, he’s incredibly well-connected. And he knows his stuff.

There are thousands of tipsters and form analysts. Part of the fun is finding those you like. For what it’s worth, here are a few that I enjoy following.

Gibbo .. @brissyraces (also has a great website). Chris Nelson .. @qldtrials (Best Bets analyst and contributor to 4TAB). Brent Zerafa .. @brentzerafa (Daily Tele). Ray Thomas .. @RayThomas1.  Jay Rooney .. @Jay_Rooney (West Australian form). Brad Thompson .. @BradThompson83. The legendary Tony Brassel .. @TonyBrassel. And plenty more.

There are media folk at every turn on Twitter. Some are great fun, and thoughtful performers. Try this lot. Mary Collier .. @mtc01 (owner and 4BC breakfast host – one of twitter’s finest). Nathan Exelby .. @xlbnathan (Courier-Mail scribe). Tony Clements .. @tonyontheradio (4TAB host and industry expert).  And Richie Callander .. @richieplz (one of the best Twitter names!)

Special mention goes to some old Twitter friends. Some of the funniest Twitter banter I see comes from a bunch of mates, who never miss an opportunity to have a crack at each other, especially over losing bets.

Do yourself a favour and follow Ben Dorries .. @bendorries (Courier-Mail), Gerard Daffy .. @GerardDaffy (betting guru), Wayne Hemming .. @TickerOz (legendary Brisbane journo) and Peter Psaltis .. @peterp79 (4BC sports lover and host).

More and more stables are coming on board. Check out Peter Moody .. @MoodyRacing, Gai Waterhouse .. @GaiWaterhouse1 and her hard working staff member Natasha Kent .. @KentNatasha. Plenty of good stuff too from Griffiths Racing .. @GriffithsRacing, Lee Freedman .. @Freedmanbros and Desleigh Forster .. @DesRacing74.

Want to stalk some jockeys? Try Kerrin McEvoy .. @KPMcEvoy, Glyn Schofield .. @ SchofieldGlyn, Chris Munce .. @MunceC and Josh Parr .. @JJParr7.

Some don’t fit into any category. They’re either smart, funny, helpful or controversial. Enjoy the offerings of Corinna Slade .. @CorinnaSladey, Steve Meakes .. @ourmaizcay,  Brad Tamer .. @Tatts_Tamer, Racing Good Oil .. @RacingGoodOil, The Gadfly .. @turfgadfly, Cox Plate .. @The_Cox_Plate,  and Racenet .. @RacenetTweets.

And of course, no racing fan’s Twitter account is complete without the great mare herself, Black Caviar. Yep, she’s on twitter .. @blackcaviar2006. Her phone must have mighty big keys.

So there you have it. The must-have names for punters on Twitter. Apologies to those who I follow and enjoy, but forgot for this piece. There are so many of you out there.

Have fun finding your own favourites. Hopefully it will help you build your betting account. And here’s someone who’ll never give you a winner, or a worthwhile tip. But you should follow him anyway. That Salmon bloke .. @salmo22

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.