Our Caller Jack gets The Dog home at Donald

Memoirs of a Mug Punter by John Harms

An extract from Memoirs of a Mug Punter which concurs with Peter Flynn’s Jack Styring observations…

Donald is in the bush. The racetrack sits amid the paddocks: a green lifesaver in a parched land. The Dog (our beloved mare, Courting Pleasure, known to us in SAMRA – the Salvador Allende Memorial Racing Alliance – as Dog On Fire, or in keeping with racetrack abbreviations ‘The Dog’) was in the last race and, although it was a long wait, she did nothing to attract the attention of the VRC snoops (she had been on double-secret probation as a result of various misdemeanours, the one at Murtoa when she threw the boy possibly being the worst…ed). She was on her best behaviour.

The Sheahans, who had descended on Donald, weren’t. Ade was his calm business-as-usual self, but the girls were playing up like secondhand Victas. Cale (the milliner) was decked out in one of her own creations, an impressive blue flowery number which must have won hat of the day (or even hat of the century) in Donald. Tammy was decked out with a bottomless glass of champagne.

Things were looking fine….

This time I sent some cash (from Queensland) to put on. We didn’t want another Murtoa fiasco (when we had been advised she wasn’t worth backing at 3/1on – she started at 5/2 and won carrying not one cent of SAMRA’s hard-earned). The Dog was well-placed in this 1000m Class 2. Interviewed on home video in front of the small wooden grandstand, Ade, still in his flat-cap, was ‘reasonably confident’, but added the proviso, ‘as long as she runs straight’. Thinking he was being interviewed by Rod Gallegos, Ade became expansive. ‘We’ve got a problem with her steering at the moment. There’s no doubting her ability – it’s her sanity that’s the worry.’

Ade failed to mention that she was saddlecloth 9 in Race 9, a circumstance which contributes to (improves…ed) a horses chances. The bookies gave 8/1, a good price for the SAMRA cash because she was a Class 1 mare up in grade. She was coming off what, on the surface, appeared like a poor performance at Ararat, she was drawn wide – and she was officially crazy.

As it happened the outside barrier proved little trouble. Stan (the legend) Tsaikos was up again, and he got her across, although he had to use up some petrol. There was plenty of pace on in the scamper, and The Dog sat just off the leader before challenging at the top of the straight. She got the better of the leader, Kiev Prince. As they came down the running well-champagned Sheahan voices rang out across the maturing wheat.

On the microphone at Donald that day was Jack Styring, one of those classic Australian broadcasters who still subscribed to the Ken Howard school of race-calling. He had the knack of breaking his words in to syllables and adding the occasional ‘ah’ to the end of a word. At barrier-rise he called, ‘Court-ting-ah Pleasure got-tah wayah-wellah.” It’s an unusual strategy: to split words in the middle and join each part to the end and beginning of the previous and following words while giving the impression the call is taking place from inside a corrugated-iron rainwater tank with a mouthful of marbles.

In the closing stages Jack sang: ‘Courting-ah Pleasure’s comin’ into it with ah grea-tah-runnah. Look at Bronscay-ah-flying. Bronscay’s-ah-coming at them. Bronscay-ah-goin-gah-home the battah. Courting Pleasure.’

The Dog had tricked even the great Jack Styring. She had fought on and stuck her head out on the line. It was a four-way go, but The Dog got the decision. We were winners again.

The Sheahan camp went straight in to an Irish jig, which included in its choreography the jumping up onto each other and the flight of champagne. On the archival footage the screen is consumed by the full faces of assorted Sheahans yelling cryptic things like, ‘Get a big green one in you, Jules,’ and similar comments of shameless high-spiritedness, some of which were to be repeated in the confessional boxes of western Victoria. I could imagine them finding a winking priest who gave them the minimum and followed the blessing with, ‘And what was it you were sayin’ d’name of dhat horse was my son?’

Ade was presented with a crystal trophy by a grazier’s wife. He held it up like the FA Cup to the nine punters who weren’t in the bar, and then Tammy poured the dregs of her eleventh glass of champagne in to it. He then made a speech, failing to mention socialism in horseracing….

Ah, yes, the great man has put down the glasses.

Copies of Memoirs of a Mug Punter are available HERE

About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and footyalmanac.com.au. He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three kids - Theo12, Anna11, Evie9. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst three. His ambition is to lunch for Australia.

Comments

  1. Peter Flynn says

    JTH,

    Great to hear more about Jack.

    Must have been a thrill to have Jack call your horse home.

    Courting Pleasure wasn’t the only nag to deceive the great man. Tricky angles at some of these tracks!

  2. Magnificent call.

    “Ade failed to mention that she was saddlecloth 9 in Race 9, a circumstance which contributes to (improves…ed) a horses chances. The bookies gave 8/1, a good price for the SAMRA cash because she was a Class 1 mare up in grade. She was coming off what, on the surface, appeared like a poor performance at Ararat, she was drawn wide – and she was officially crazy.” LOL.

  3. “The girls were playing up like second-hand Victas…” all too true (second hand Victas, I mean. Not the Fillies and Mares)

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