Hartnell (GB) ridden by Craig Williams wins the Charge Of The Light Horse P.B. Lawrence Stakes at Caulfield Racecourse on August 19, 2017 in Caulfield, Australia. (Mike Keating/Racing Photos)
It has a heartbeat this Spring Racing Carnival and if you allow yourself, you can feel it. It starts at a slow even beat early in August and builds and builds week by week. Eventually it’s a pounding, pulsating feeling in your chest, an adrenaline ride.
Horse racing at this time of year is like natural high. Let it into your system and you’ll be on a ride like none other.
Legendary race caller Bill Collins made me aware of ‘the beat’ many years ago. He didn’t even know he’d done it to me. I was a fan of horse racing from a very early age and a devotee of the Collins style of calling even before I’d attempted to call a race.
You see, Bill had a style that gave every race what it was worth. By that I mean he’d be almost in slumber land through the winter. Always as accurate as ever mind you but he was going through the motions of race calling, until a hint of Spring wafts through the callers booth.
It nearly always happened on Liston Stakes day at Sandown. It’s now known as the P.B. Lawrence Stakes (named after one of Melbourne Racing Club’s – then VATC – great administrators) and is now run at Caulfield.
I recall standing in the back of the broadcast box at Sandown watching a maestro at work. Bill was a cool character to say the least. He looked so relaxed behind the binoculars, as he was when doing almost anything in the media, but this was the Liston. There was a certain feeling in the box now. Bill was sitting a little more upright behind his 10X50 binoculars. He was tense now. This is the start of Spring and Bill has come alive!
“They’re off!” he roared. There was no reciprocating roar from the crowd that day, that’ll come when the bigger crowds start flooding the tracks, but the hair on the back of my neck still tingles with Bill’s excitement.