Who is Australia’s best horse racing caller?

Justin Cinque Columnist

By Justin Cinque, Justin Cinque is a Roar Expert

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    Race callers. Their job is to describe with accuracy and a touch of flair. They make the pictures come to life and the best races memorable.

    Racing wouldn’t be anywhere near as special if wasn’t for those men (and the odd woman) perched high up in the grandstand doing their best to describe the action.

    Over the years Australia has produced the world’s best callers of horse racing – Bill Collins, Ken Howard and John Tapp are but a few.

    But of those who haven’t hung up the binoculars, who is the greatest? Who is Australia’s best race caller?

    David Raphael

    David Raphael cleared the haziness of Hong Kong racing. Without Raphael’s thrilling calls, I may never have come to appreciate racing in the former English colony.

    With his nasal voice and fantastic choice of words, Raphael made racing in Hong Kong sound so exciting.

    One of his calls of champion-sprinter Silent Witness winning at Sha Tin was so good it made Channel Nine’s six o’clock news.

    On another occasion, when Silent Witness lost his first race at start 18 in 2005, this is how Raphael described it: “Here comes Bullish Luck! Comes to run him down! The crowd roar! The roof of the grandstand rattles! Bullish Luck draws up! Beats the champion!”

    Raphael’s greatest call is probably his description of the 2000 Hong Kong Mile, won by the great New Zealand mare Sunline.

    “Fairy King Prawn, the horse of Hong Kong coming after the mare of the world…” the call went.

    Sunline hung on to victory and I still get tingles down my spine listening to that race.

    Raphael is back in Australia, working for Sky Racing World. He isn’t calling at the moment but I hope to see him behind the binoculars soon.

    Greg Miles

    Greg Miles must be pretty good because he calls the Melbourne Cup each year.

    Miles’s got it all – the words, poise and accuracy. And he has a habit of making a good race feel like a great one.

    Miles will forever be remembered as the man who said “a champion becomes a legend” as Makybe Diva claimed her third Melbourne Cup. But Miles isn’t a one-line wonder.

    His 2004 Australian Cup call is an outstanding example of brilliant broadcasting.

    “Lonhro! He’s going to get there! Y-es! Lonhro won it! What a champion! What a way to go!”

    But my favourite call of Miles’ is the 2002 Yalumba Stakes.

    “A great battle! Sunline, Lonhro. Lonhro’s getting to the great mare and Lonhro beat Sunline by a neck!”

    Mark Shean

    Mark Shean is Mr. Professional.

    He doesn’t get too excited but he doesn’t make too many mistakes either.

    The best thing about Shean is his ability to correctly pick the winner of a close race, sometimes even before the race is finished!

    Shean calls Sydney racing over the PA at the track and for TVN. When he started calling Sydney racing about six years ago he lacked confidence and mumbled but he has developed into a fine caller.

    His call of Takeover Target winning the 2009 TJ Smith at Randwick will forever live in my memory as a great piece of broadcasting.


    Hilton Donaldson

    Poor old Hilton Donaldson has the task of bringing the mire that is Adelaide racing to the masses.

    Donaldson’s most famous call was a trot race – the 1998 Miracle Mile when champion New Zealander Christian Cullen (named after the All Blacks fullback of the same name) smashed them at Harold Park in Sydney.

    The call went: “He’s done it there! Now, he’s done it here! Hail the new Australasian champion Christian Cullen!”

    Donaldson has his fans but he has just as many detractors.

    One of Donaldson’s latest tricks is his pronunciation of the name of Adelaide sprinter Goon Serpent.

    Goon Serpent may be ten lengths from the leader in a close finish but you’ll still hear Hilton wasting valuable seconds when calling “Goooooooooooooooooon Serpent is last”.

    Poor old Donaldson. He’s probably not the first person to go crazy after living in Adelaide!

    So who is Australia’s best caller?

    We couldn’t go through them all. I would’ve loved to have written about Alan Thomas from Brisbane, Matthew Hill from Sydney and Darren McCauley from Perth.

    I have a soft spot for all four callers I’ve spoken about above. However, I can’t go past Greg Miles as the best.

    Sure, Miles is helped by calling the great races in Melbourne’s Spring Carnival, but he nails the classics.

    Have Your Say



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    The Crowd Says (36)

    • April 20th 2012 @ 7:57am
      sheek said | April 20th 2012 @ 7:57am | ! Report

      You can’t go past Mister Ed, he has the inside word on every horse…..

      Seriously, don’t know much about the callers except Greg Miles, does a great Cup call…..

    • April 20th 2012 @ 10:52am
      Australian Rules said | April 20th 2012 @ 10:52am | ! Report

      Greg Miles is the uber professional but I think David Raphael is good for racing.

      Special mention also to Bryan Martin…has had some great one liners, including Black Caviar’s 17th (I think) win:

      “…And here she comes! We didn’t see Bradman! We didn’t see Phar Lap! But we’re seeing this great mare here today! Black Caviar by 5 lengths!”

      • Columnist

        April 20th 2012 @ 5:06pm
        Justin Cinque said | April 20th 2012 @ 5:06pm | ! Report

        Ah Australian Rules. I forgot Bryan Martin was out of retirement. I didn’t consider him. Decent caller he was. Probably not as reliable as miles or shean – he makes the odd mistake – but can’t he call a great race! He called his own horse Fields Of Omagh to two Cox Plate wins and held his nerve. And his call of the 98 Cox Plate is a ripper when Might And Power won ‘…The earth starts to rumble’.

        • April 20th 2012 @ 6:32pm
          Boris said | April 20th 2012 @ 6:32pm | ! Report

          BM’s call of the 1990 Japan Cup…. ‘And Better Loosen Up has won for Australia!’ was outstanding. He’s getting old now as we all do, but he was the benchmark in his prime.

          • Columnist

            April 20th 2012 @ 6:49pm
            Justin Cinque said | April 20th 2012 @ 6:49pm | ! Report

            Well said Boris. It was one of Australia’s first forays overseas for a horse race (especially into Asia) and Bryan’s call encapsulated the moment perfectly.

    • April 20th 2012 @ 11:35am
      The West Roars said | April 20th 2012 @ 11:35am | ! Report

      Australia has the best race callers in the world. Its very hard to single one out. I agree when David Raphael was outstanding when in HK, shame he is not calling anymore however there are a lack of jobs for so many quality callers. Darren McCauley in Perth is as good as anyone in the world and we have some great young callers Josh Fleming, Luke Marlow, Adam Olzanski and Anthony Manton who calls in Malaysia.

      • Columnist

        April 20th 2012 @ 1:22pm
        Justin Cinque said | April 20th 2012 @ 1:22pm | ! Report

        Hey the west roars, isn’t ‘the west roars’ a line greg miles used when northerly one an australian cup or something similar? Agree – we produce the best callers. I’m glad you mentioned Josh Fleming because i think he’s a fantastic caller with a bright future.

      • July 19th 2015 @ 11:48pm
        Scottsburg said | July 19th 2015 @ 11:48pm | ! Report

        There’s a new comer in west australia who is going to be better than you’ve all heard his name is Royce and is calling country port headland roebourne Wait and see

    • Columnist

      April 20th 2012 @ 1:26pm
      Justin Cinque said | April 20th 2012 @ 1:26pm | ! Report

    • April 20th 2012 @ 2:25pm
      The West Roars said | April 20th 2012 @ 2:25pm | ! Report

      spot on Justin when Northerly won his first cox plate…Greg Miles says “there’s trouble on the line, but the west roars”. I thought it was an appropriate alias for such a discussion…loved your article.

      • Columnist

        April 20th 2012 @ 3:17pm
        Justin Cinque said | April 20th 2012 @ 3:17pm | ! Report

        Thanks ‘the west roars’. Greg also came up with northerly’s nickname ‘the fighting tiger’. Just another reason why he’s the best.

    • April 20th 2012 @ 7:20pm
      Chris said | April 20th 2012 @ 7:20pm | ! Report

      Shean is Mr Accuracy for me, thought his Slipper day calling was outstanding, Miles has a great voice, few hiccups lately though, Josh Fleming travels around the bush from one end to the next and does an amazing job.
      Hilton on the other hand, the less said the better.
      Bill Collins the best i have ever heard.

      • June 29th 2014 @ 9:36pm
        Jakartaman said | June 29th 2014 @ 9:36pm | ! Report

        Mark Shean should NOT be calling races either on the track or on TV. Listening to him call trials was bad enough. He has a very boring ockerish voice and poor diction to boot. ie the name ‘Williams’ becomes ‘Weeyams’, Brilliant becomes ‘Breeyant, Australia turns into ‘Ostraya’ etc and he has no timber in his voice at all. Unlike Ian Craig, John Tapp and the late great Ken Howard. I was just a lad of 17 when I heard his terrific call of the 1967 Doncaster as my favourite horse, the mighty Tobin Bronze got up in the last stride to snatch victory. I still get goose bumps thinking about it. Was he the best? IMHO opinion he was. In fact you could London to a brick on that. lol

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