The new voice of Hong Kong

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

HE started out com­men­tat­ing his brother run­ning laps at their family home and now New Zealan­der Tom Wood, is liv­ing out a dream as he set­tles into life as Hong Kong’s newest race­caller.

It’s been a rapid rise for the 28-yearold, who comes to Hong Kong after an 18-month stint in Sin­ga­pore and cut his teeth on the dog, trot­ting and race­tracks of his home­land.

Sha Tin

“I thought Sin­ga­pore was a good stopover for some­one from New Zealand but never thought I would get the op­por­tu­nity to come here,” Wood says after call­ing Fri­day’s tri­als at Sha Tin ahead of to­day’s sea­son opener. I re­ally en­joyed Sin­ga­pore, the rac­ing was good and it was a good step­ping stone. When you’re in Sin­ga­pore there’s a big­ger au­di­ence and you get no­ticed.”

Wood, who re­places John Blance in the commentary box, comes from a rac­ing family and his life­long pas­sion for race-call­ing saw him go to great lengths for the chance to com­men­tate as a young­ster.

“We had sort of a horse­shoe-shaped yard with a con­crete road­way round it and in the mid­dle was an is­land of grass,” Wood says.

“I used to make my brother run around there and I would stand on the roof, which was not safe at all, and make him run while I called him around.

“I would come home from school and we lived op­po­site the Cam­bridge train­ing track, so if there was still a cou­ple of tri­als to go – and there was a three-horse trial at the end with some old jumpers go­ing round over 1,950m. Then I’d beg (a fel­low Kiwi race­caller) who name was George Simon to have a crack at that. I must have sounded hor­ren­dous.”

Wood’s fa­ther Chris trains horses and he fondly re­calls some of his Group One suc­cesses: “Mum and dad were in part­ner­ship be­fore they split up, dad’s still in the game chip­ping away.

Trainee com­men­ta­tor

Wood started work­ing for the New Zealand Rac­ing Board as a trainee com­men­ta­tor at just 18 and says he called his first race meet­ing “at the Westport trots on Box­ing Day in 2009, 16-horse fields on the grass”.

But he is quick to turn the at­ten­tion back to the now and is primed to tackle his lat­est chal­lenge head on, promis­ing the Hong Kong rac­ing pub­lic “ac­cu­racy and hon­esty”.

“I be­lieve it’ll be a lot more com­pet­i­tive in Hong Kong, the whole hand­i­cap­ping sys­tem is struc­tured very well to make it very com­pet­i­tive, tight fin­ishes,” he says.

Wood is wary of the unique Happy Val­ley track.

“There will be a lot more crit­i­cism here as well and you have got to have a thick skin. It’s go­ing to take time to learn the colours, the horses and the form, it’ll take a good two or three months.

“The commentary box at Happy Val­ley is about 30 me­tres be­fore the line, that will be some­thing very dif­fer­ent.

“Ev­ery­thing hap­pens there so quickly and they run past you be­fore they get to the post so that will be in­ter­est­ing.

“I get to do the tri­als there next Satur­day to get a bit of a feel of it, but you have got to have your wits about you there. As long as there is not six across the track in the first race I do there I’ll be happy.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.