INSIDE RACING FLASHBACKS
Proudly brought to you by Sky Racing
PERCY SYKES O.A.M (1920-2014)
I was delighted in early 2002 when Percy Sykes agreed to give me a comprehensive interview for Sky’s Inside Racing programme.
Never in Australian racing history had a veterinary surgeon attained a higher profile and I knew our regular viewers would love to learn more about this extraordinary man.
The quietly spoken veterinarian took us through his childhood in the Sudan, his veterinary training in England and his early working life. He reminisced about his first Australian practice at Croydon Park and the gradual ascendancy to the top of his profession.
Percy talked of his pioneering work in equine X/rays, blood profiles, standing castrations and feed supplements.
You’ll be fascinated as he reflects on the homemade concoction that not only saved Tulloch’s life, but got him back to the races after a two year absence.
Percy Sykes died in 2014 at age 93. I’m so pleased he chose to share his story with us at his beloved Randwick Equine Vet Centre. At the time of this interview he was 82, and still doing his daily stable rounds.
In 2016 I visited my old friend Edgar Britt in a Gold Coast nursing home. He was lucid and happy to talk racing as we had so many times over the years. Only a few weeks later Edgar Clive Britt OAM slipped away peacefully at the remarkable age of 103.
Back in 1999 I visited his home at Avalon (NSW) with a TV camera and got him reminiscing about his wonderful life in racing.
Not only did he take us through the heady days of the 1930’s and 40’s, but he actually loaned me a film reel containing some of the most fascinating footage. The interview went to air on Sky’s Inside Racing programme and remains one of my all time favourites.
If you’re a racing historian or an old timer who will relate to Edgar’s era this is for you. Some of the film footage will delight you.
SIR DENIS JAMES KILLEN AC KCMG (1925-2007)
I was aware of the legend of Jim Killen long before I visited his Brisbane home in late 2006.
My colleague Marshall Dobson encouraged me to do the interview, not only for the legendary politician’s trademark way with words, but because of his well documented love of racing.
What a delight it was to hear Sir James talk about his early life as a jackaroo, his days as a Barrister, and his entry into politics in the Queensland seat of Moreton.
You’ll work out for yourself those he liked and those he didn’t in the hurly burly world of Federal politics. Surprisingly his best mates in the Parliament were from the other side.
This is one of my all time favourites.
I was saddened to hear of the passing early this month of gifted horseman and trainer John McNair.
I had the pleasure of presenting two profiles on John for Sky’s Inside Racing programme. The first was conducted at his brilliantly appointed Somersby training complex, which gave horses a lifestyle they would never have enjoyed in a city stable. Every facility on that property was testimony to John McNair’s lifetime belief that “close enough is not good enough”.
A few years later he took the trouble to travel from the Central Coast to Sky’s French’s Forest studio where we recorded a fresh interview at the height of Hay List’s remarkable career. Sadly the great sprinter was destined never to win again after this interview was recorded in the Autumn of 2012.
John Mcnair could put the polish on a dazzling sprinter like Hay List, a dour stayer like Ears Ronny, a veteran like Mustard who was still competitive in the city at fourteen years of age, or a talented sprinter/miler like Highpak.
I was thrilled in 2003 when John and Sue McNair joined a small syndicate to race a three year old pacer I was training. It was a little black horse called Tinpan Alley, who showed very little in half a dozen starts, and we decided to move him on. John showed as much interest in the little horse as he did one of his own team.
By way of a tribute to an extraordinary horseman, I’m honoured to post the Inside Racing interview from 2012.
RICHIE BENAUD INTERVIEW
I was delighted when Richie Benaud accepted an invitation to be a special guest on Sky’s Inside Racing Programme in 2013.
I was aware he had more than a passing interest in racing, with special affection for a handful of horses who’d won his admiration over the years.
His presence in the Sky Channel studios created a buzz among staff members, the like of which I had never seen before.
Sri Lankan cricket writer Harold de Andrado perhaps summed it up best when he said “Richie Benaud possibly next to Sir Donald Bradman has been one of the greatest cricketing personalities as player, researcher, writer, critic, author, organiser, adviser and student of the game”.
Enjoy our chat with a past captain of the Australian cricket team and a legend of the game he loved.
ROY HIGGINS MBE 1938-2014
Sheer love of his craft was the only thing to keep Roy Higgins in the saddle for twenty five years.
He endured a torturous battle with weight for most of his career, but was around long enough to ride 2,312 winners and to win eleven Melbourne Jockeys Premierships.
His two Melbourne Cup victories highlight a stunning big race record, which saw him partner some of the best horses of his era.
In September 2000, the jockey known as “the Professor” allowed me to bring a Sky camera into his Brighton home, and we settled down for a chat about his incredible career.
Roy insisted on recording the final part of the interview at his favourite pub.
This is the segment in which he categorises his favourite horses, and you’ll be fascinated by his comments.
HAPPY 90TH JIMMY JOHNSON
I visited Jim Johnson one morning in 2009 at his Melbourne home and thank goodness we took a TV camera along.
The former remarkable jockey talked warmly about his life in racing. He was happy to reflect on a career which brought him 4 Adelaide Jockeys Premierships, and one Melbourne Premiership in the era when Roy Higgins was almost impossible to beat.
Jim spoke of his three Melbourne Cup wins and the host of great horses he rode. He reflects on his favourite, Tobin Bronze, who won a Caulfield Cup for Jim with a massive 9st 10lbs.
He talks of the day he was approached by a stranger outside the jockeys room and offered a fortune to “pull one up”.
Jim was happy to discuss the style that punters loved, but it sometimes got him into strife.
This interview is almost ten years old, but I’m sure Jimmy would say the same things today. For veteran racing lovers this is a nostalgic journey with an Aussie racing icon who turned 90 last week.
MAX CROCKETT INTERVIEW
Max Crockett was one of the best known figures in the Australian racing industry. Rarely without his trademark stetson, Max was around horses from an early age, and went on to become a legend in the specialist field of horse breaking.
Many high profile Sydney trainers sought his services, and it’s believed he broke in more than 7000 valuable thoroughbreds. He tried his hand at horse training in later years, and enjoyed a great deal of success.
Max drove all the way from Mudgee to join me on Sky’s Inside Racing programme in 2012. He dispensed with the stetson when he came into the studio, and it might take you a moment or two to recognize him.
With or without the hat, he was the same earthy bloke, who made a million friends as he became a legend in his chosen field.
GEORGE MOORE INTERVIEW
To mark the opening of our new page "Sky Racing Flashbacks", we present a three part special with the unforgettable George Moore. The interview was recorded in 2002, at the magnificent Gold Coast penthouse, where George and Iris Moore had been living for twenty years.
The iconic horseman was in a relaxed mood, and treated us to a wonderful trip down memory lane. George died in Sydney six years later, and Sky Racing re-screened the interview. This is the version you're about to see.