Greg Miles doesn’t enjoy calling the Melbourne Cup.
As he prepares for a record 35th Melbourne Cup call, Miles says there are many other races he enjoys more.
“It’s not something that you say `boy am I looking forward to that’.
“It’s just the ridiculous pressure of the Melbourne Cup. It’s not an enjoyable experience.”
Miles admits to a touch of nerves before the three and a half minutes at 3pm on the first Tuesday in November.
“It’s still the Melbourne Cup, it’s still the biggest audience I have by far for just that one race and it means a lot to them, it means a lot to the industry and just people in general.
“It’s a big event that needs to be broadcast properly.”
Miles fell in love with horse racing listening to the radio while still in primary school and his first trip to a racetrack cemented his wish to be somehow involved in racing.
By the time Miles was 17 he was out at the track practising race calls into his tape recorder, eventually picking up some trials and then greyhound races.
His big break came when Joe Brown retired as the ABC’s race caller.
“I was lucky enough that they took a chance on me. I was only 21 years old when they appointed me as the number one caller in Melbourne for the ABC so that was a huge breakthrough for a young person.”
Miles says he never imagined he would surpass “the Accurate One” Bill Collins’ 34 Cup calls.
“When I first started in `81 at the ABC I thought well if I could do eight or 10 of these it would be terrific.
“But I was a lot younger than those guys when I started so if I was going to continue then inevitably I’d break their record.”
He names Makybe Diva’s third successive win in 2005 – when he declared “a champion becomes a legend” – as his most important Melbourne Cup call and probably his best.
“It was a more difficult call than most Melbourne Cups because I knew that there was a large portion of the audience just watching her so if something happened to her and I didn’t see it, it would have been terrible.
“As I was calling through the rest of the field I was constantly glancing back at her to make sure everything was going alright.”
Miles mucked up his record 35th Caulfield Cup, calling winner Mongolian Khan “Magnolian Khan” for much of the race after being “doped up” on hay fever medication just to make it to the track.
“Just before the start of the Caulfield Cup I could feel I wasn’t right. I guess a sort of panic attack started to take effect really because I knew my breathing wasn’t right.
“I was wondering if I was going to be able to finish the race. It was just an absolutely awful position to be in.”
Miles was stung by the vitriol on social media.
“It was certainly hurtful. It did affect me.”
Miles will prepare for the Melbourne Cup as he does for every race, with heavy form study including watching videos of the horses in action, drawing up a “speed map” to get a handle on how the race may shape up and memorising the jockey colours.
“There’s a lot more preparation than there is performance in race calling.”
The international horses have added an extra dimension to Miles’ prep work: internet footage of their races and a trip to the Werribee International Horse Centre to see them up close.
“In some ways it’s made it a harder race because we don’t have that close understanding of how they race.
“The flip side of that is I think we’re seeing a race that’s far more truly run now.
“They seem to run along at a much stronger pace and consequently the field tends to stretch out a little more than it used to in the old days. That’s made it a little bit easier in identifying the horses because they’re not quite as bunched as they once were.”
As for his own form, Miles hasn’t put a time frame on how many more Cup calls are in him.
“I’m only 56 now so it’s a bit young to be retiring and it’s a bit young to be passing these sort of records too.”