Odds on favourite for race calling career

Odds on favourite for race calling career

18 May 2016

A lifelong love of horse racing helped Tom Wood (Hamilton, 2004–07) land his dream job.

Aged just 25, Tom is the youngest of the New Zealand Racing Board’s eight fulltime race callers. He broadcasts from race courses all over the lower-central North Island on racing channel Trackside as well as the TAB’s radio channels. The son of thoroughbred horse trainer Chris Wood, Tom grew up at race courses.

“When I was younger my parents would always know where to come and find me. I would be down annoying the guys in the broadcasting truck asking them ’what does this do, and what does this do,’” Tom said.

As a teenager, Tom had a photography business taking images of race finishes. He also had a part- time office job at Matamata race course. But it was a career in broadcasting Tom wanted and he got his foot in the door by submitting a tape of himself calling horse trials. He was offered one of two broadcasting cadetships awarded by the New Zealand Racing Board.

He moved to Christchurch in 2008 to undergo training in all aspects of broadcasting, including camera work, sound and commentary. His work was critiqued by retired racing legend, Reon Murtha. While based in Lower Hutt, Tom is constantly on the road attending two and sometimes three race meetings per week.

He says while the job is exciting it can be quite lonely. “You are ’it.’ There is no one else there who can do what you do.”

Research is a big part of the job and Tom puts in four or five hours the day before a race meeting.

“I don’t have to put as much research into the Saturday races because they are a better quality of horse and you know them. But for the midweek races it is tougher. So generally the day before I will go through what they have done recently and especially work on pronunciation. You get quite a few tricky names, and I am not an expert when it comes to French.”

Tom also has an interest in the technical side of the job and reckons he is probably the only race caller in New Zealand who can fix his own equipment. He says he is an avid sports watcher and even turns on Trackside on his days off.

Working at Trentham and Riccarton were career highlights: “They are not easy places to call as they are such big tracks.”

While he says he hasn’t been “let loose” on too many of the big races he is clearly keen to get the opportunity, and would eventually like to move back to the Waikato.

He spent two years in Christchurch, then three in Dunedin calling at “pretty much every race course in the South Island.” He would call harness racing, gallops and greyhounds.

For the past three years Tom has been part of the TAB’s Melbourne Cup team broadcasting from Australia.

(Source: Monica Holt Network magazine)