On course presenters gone and now it’s the commentators who could be studio-bound
Some greyhound meetings next month will be held with no on-course commentator in the latest cost-cutting move by the TAB.
In what could be a sign of things to come, Trackside will have a commentator in its Christchurch studio calling three meetings in the Central Districts using only a TV monitor.
With regular commentator Mark Rosanowski on leave, and the other former CD caller Darryl Robinson among those let go, RITA finds itself stuck for a replacement.
So Andy McCook, one of the contractors who fell victim to widespread cuts by the Racing Industry Transition Agency, will call the meetings at Wanganui and Palmerston North in the second week of July.
McCook, who has been a presenter and acted as a stand-in commentator off and on for the last four or five years in Canterbury, believes he can do the job without leaving viewers thinking they are being short-changed.
It won’t be the first time he has called a meeting remotely. When a flight delay saw versatile caller Jason Teaz unable to get to Dunedin one day he team tagged with Trevor Wilkes in the Addington commentator’s box, calling the Forbury Park card while Wilkes did the local meeting.
Unusually, Wilkes routinely calls off his TV monitor but McCook says for accuracy’s sake he’d much prefer to look out the window and use his binoculars.
“The only problem is if dogs start getting checked and get a mile off the leaders, or fall over.
“But I’m hoping there will be enough camera angles to make it work.”
Given the TAB has cut the number of cameras it now uses to cover meetings that’s not a given but McCook is positive about the challenge ahead.
McCook says he assumes the TAB will make arrangements for on-course punters to hear the commentaries.
“This could be the way of the future and it’s not the end of the world. When I first started, I used to practice at home calling meetings watching the TV.”
McCook says the TAB is ready “to rock ’n’ roll, having set up everything he needs in the Christchurch studio and he plans to have a test run soon.
“I wouldn’t want to go in blind so I’ll be sneaking in to get some practice first.”
McCook, a keen student of form, says he’s also got plenty of time to bone up on his CD greyhounds so he can analyse fields with at least some authority.
McCook believes it’s harder calling horse races off the TV than dog races as the field can string out much further and the horses are smaller with cameras now further away.
Other commentators have been forced to rely on TV pictures in recent years when emergencies have arisen.
Matt Cross called a West Coast meeting from the studio one day when Mark McNamara couldn’t get there and Aaron White called a trots card at Manawatu when he was fog-bound and stood in at the last minute for a sick Tony Lee at a Hastings gallops meeting.
Similar problems will arise in Auckland next month with long-time caller Peter Earley dismissed and White, now expected to commentate on dogs, on leave.
The TAB initially rostered cut gallops contractor Bruce Sherwin for July 12 at Manukau Stadium - he once called dog races in Macau - but George Simon will now do the meeting.
It will make for a busy week for the Waikato-based Simon - he’s ditched the Te Aroha trials on Tuesday but will still be at the Cambridge dogs on Thursday and Ellerslie gallops on Saturday.
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Saturday at Awapuni
Race 5: Lincoln’s Kruz
“He has trained on well since his trial. The track is going to be very testing (heavy 11) on Saturday and he is untried in these conditions but there’s not a lot of exposed form in the field and, if he handles the track, I’d expect him to be right in the thick of it.”
Race 8: Platinum Rapper
“We’ve decided to go with the 3kg claim of Temyia Taiaroa in what is a strong field. She will come down to 52kg which will really help her on the heavy track. She has had a jumpout and a trial to prepare for this so, with the right run, should be right in the mix.”
Race 9: Lincoln Dreamer
“He has Kozzi Asano up so will claim 1kg which will be a help. He handles wet tracks and has won on a heavy track before. This may be a bit short of his best distance but I expect him to get back in the running and be doing his best work late. He has been working well and I’m looking forward to seeing him back at the races on a wet track.”
Race 10: Benny Lincoln
“The field isn’t very strong but he has had only one jumpout so I am expecting he will improve a lot from the run. He handled the track well at the jumpouts so I think he will handle wet ground, but he may be one run away. Kozzi Asano will claim 1kg.”