Just Horse Racing writer Michael McGill interviews up-and-coming race caller Luke Marlow. View his interview below.
Tell us about growing up in rural Queensland?
Well I love the bush and I grew up in a town of 800 people called Thangool. It was a great grounding for me to live like that starting out. We didn’t do much as far as TV and video games. We pretty much rode horses and played football with my brother and sister. It was great growing up out there.
I went to Thangool State School which had about 100 pupils if that in the whole school. I loved it.
Your dad trained and bred at Merlo Downs. Did you ever consider following in his footsteps?
If I wasn’t calling races I would probably doing something like that with Dad. It was something I loved doing, I used to ride trackwork for Dad. If I didn’t go down the race calling path that is probably what I would be doing.
When did you consider becoming a race caller? What turned you onto it?
For me it was a tough time in my life when I discovered I had a passion for calling races. I got very ill when I was 13 and when I was at home bedridden I used to, for something to do, call races for the television.
I used to mute the volume and do that and then found out I had a knack for remembering the colours. I used to then start going to the track; we were living in Rockhampton by that time; and I would set myself up in the Grandstand and practise that way.
Do you remember your first race call?
I do, it was in August 2008 in Yeppoon and I was presented the opportunity 20 minutes before the race by local caller Tony McMahon to call the race and I jumped at the chance. The race was actually won by my father’s horse called Fleet the Bongo. That was obviously an enormous thrill aside from calling my first race. For Dad’s horse to win made it very memorable.
You won the Sky ‘John Tapp Calling Scholarship’. How did that come about?
It is a thing that Sky Channel has run a few times. Matthew Hill, Josh Fleming and Mitch Manners are all past recipients of the scholarship. It is something that has given me the chance to chase my dream. It was basically a national search for any young race callers who thought they could make a career out of it.
Sky ran the scholarship in 2011 and I applied and it was narrowed down to a final 5 list. We were then all flown to Sydney and went through an interview process and then went to Wyong and called a race each down the line to the studio. They then selected a winner out of that and I was fortunate enough to get the nod.
Are any of the other four guys still around today?
Anthony Manton was in the same scholarship as me and he is now with Sky after doing a few years in Malaysia. Matt Jackson is also a race caller now in Victoria and Edward Sadler is now a presented in Hong Kong.
Who were your race calling idols growing up and who has helped you along the way?
Being a Queenslander I looked up to Alan Thomas and Wayne Wilson. They were the ones at the time. Alan Thomas has been a wonderful mentor for me so too Wayne before his passing. Probably Greg Miles as well as Greg sets the standard. Tony McMahon is the person who in my local area gave me the opportunities and I would not be where I am without him.
How do you prepare for a race?
I usually do the form the night before or early in the morning. It usually takes me a few hours. Part of my contract with Sky is that I have to provide tips and a top four for each race. Then as far as learning the colours I do all my colour learning when the jockeys get on the horses and it only takes me a couple of minutes to remember a field.
I have been doing it for a while now so it has almost become second nature. I do not like to do any colour prep work the night before because
if there is a change on the day I find it can get confusing.
You have called both horses and dogs. What are the main differences when calling the two?
The obvious one is that a dog is in separate colours pretty much every time it races depending on what box it draws. A horse races in the same colours most of their life and you can have it in the memory bank. The greyhounds are also much faster.
Which do you prefer more?
The thoroughbreds. It is my first love and it is where I was raised and they are my real passion but I do love greyhounds as well.
Do you have a favourite call of yours to date?
I am about to call the Provincial Championship Final at Randwick which will hopefully be a memorable one. Other than that I have called my first Group races in the last couple of seasons and all of those would be a dead heat. Just doing those black type races would be a highlight.
Is there a best horse you have called?
The best horse I have called is Winx at the barrier trials.
What is the best part about your job?
Getting paid to go to the races; it is all I ever wanted to do and I am literally living my own dream as a young child what I wanted to do. I am very thankful for that.
Is there a race in Australia and overseas you would like to call?
The Melbourne Cup would obviously be the ultimate. Any young caller would say that but not many get there. That would probably be the goal for me. Overseas I really like the look of the racing in Hong Kong with their big Derbies and that sort of thing.
Who is the best jockey in a close finish?
I will get a few mates offside here! Obviously probably Hugh Bowman is the big name in Sydney at the moment. I would probably be wrong of me not to mention my good mate Tommy Berry. He is also very good in a photo. Brenton Avdulla also gives them a lift late.
Do you have a favourite track?
I love calling at Randwick however I have only done trials there at the moment. It is just the ultimate to stand there in that box at that track is a privilege.
Any major race call stuff ups come to mind?
For sure! How long have you got haha. I called the wrong winner one day at Kembla Grange. That was the loneliest feeling in my life. I had called the last horse over the line and then looked up at the screen and realised my mistake. It is something that I am told; after seeking some mentoring after that; that all callers have done it. That helped me a little bit but it was very tough for me. It took me a long time to forgive myself for that one.
You own a few greyhounds. Is there one we should be keeping an eye on?
I have a young pup that is unraced by the name of ‘Head Wreck’. I actually own that with a few other callers Darren Flindell and Tim Newbold as well as a few mates and jockeys. He is going ok so you will see him winning a few races.
Do you have any advice for young kids looking to become race callers?
Dedication; race calling is something you get better at the more you do. I also think you are born with the ability to do it. John Tapp said to me one day; race callers are born not made. Dedication is key but you also have to have the ability to do it as it is a specialist job.
Luke thank you for your time and good luck this Saturday calling the Provincial Championship Final.