MORE TO IT THAN JUST CALLING THE RACE


says THE CENTAURIAN

Each year we honour owners, trainers, horses and jockeys at award ceremonies around the world – notably the Cartier awards in London….. we even honour grooms and apprentice riders … but as far as I am aware, there is no formal recognition of the people who paint the picture of each race through their commentaries.

Commentators are largely the unsung heroes of our sport and so I hope we might consider changing this. My idea is that we should have an award called “Commentary of the Year” – each year we should all be enthralled and consumed by commentaries of the big races across Southern Africa – and these are all available to relive on YouTube.

Readers should ping into this site any commentary they particularly enjoyed and then – if you like – I will give the nod to the one I think is the best. The commentator will then be formally recognised in Zim and hopefully further afield at annual award ceremonies. And the cost? Nout.

The recognition? Plenty. Justly deserved and well worth having. We might have a “broken mic” award for the worst one too!!

Most people think the commentator must just try and remember the jockey colours and horses’ names and then try to call them home without too many cock-ups. But a true commentator is much more than that – she/he paints the picture of the course, race, horses, jockeys, owners, trainers, form and events of the day – filling every second of time on-air made available to him/her.

The “Voice of Racing” was always Peter O’Sullivan – the Irish born, Charterhouse boy who made racing live with his commentaries from 1947 to 1997 – fifty years of brilliance – and a knighthood to boot. He called home every race that mattered in the UK – on the flat or over the jumps – and 30 Arcs!

His laconic voice was clearly unique, his calling perfect and his rising pitch as the winning post closed was always timed to perfection….. and when not calling, he painted a picture of the run-up to each race to help those listening on radio. (Today, this is equally important to those of us who listen to commentaries on the Tellytrack audio link on our mobile phones).

His vocabulary and diction were slick and precise – the very epitome of a proper commentator.

He had nothing to learn from American racing – and neither should today’s commentators. As you know I hold US racing in utter contempt and it is the same with their commentators, they have nothing to offer us at all – moreover, their bad habits need to be eliminated from Southern African racing commentaries as soon as possible.

The list of annoyances is endless!

America has no such thing as a “stretch” – at best it’s about two furlongs, pitifully pathetic – the word is “straight” and evokes between three and four furlongs of ground in which the proper outcome of a race may unfold.

And what’s all this “round objects” about “the three, the six, the eight”? We have “number 3, 6 or 8” or we have the horses’ names.

The “get-go” is the off and the “paint” is the rails. More Yankee crap.

Getting the name of each horse correct is vital and should be a given – but it’s not always the case. My all-time favourite is Belle Epoque – pronounced Belly Pork by Nguni – endless paroxysms of mirth such that I never actually knew who won the races he ran in!

So looking at Southern Africa, where are we?

Well, we have had some great commentators in the past, notably, Peter Lovemore who would break out into some Shona from time to time, Robin Bruss – cool, precise and well informed and then Adrian Nydam – the man who never failed to put Borrowdale at the front and centre of his commentaries and to call each race with accuracy, colour and real flair.

For me, the very best commentator in southern Africa – by a country mile – is Nico Kristiosis. His voice is absolutely perfect, clear, authoritative and well informed – he structures each race with precision and calls with style and panache – in fact, I think he is probably one of the very best in the world.

Our local commentator, Ngoni Nguruza, has come on in leaps and bounds – but he has a long way to go. And he has done it pretty much on his own. Well done. To go to the next level, a degree of mentoring is indicated – I know just the man who will try to assist and do so for free!

Within that mentoring must be the exploitation of every second of air time that Tellytrack affords Zim racing – the future demands no silences!

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