Calling the Melbourne Cup is a dream come true for Matthew Hill

Matt Hill. Photo: Michael Rayner

Matt Hill. Photo: Michael Rayner

When Matt Hill ascends the stairs to the broadcast box at Flemington on Melbourne Cup Day, it will be with a sense of well-earned achievement.

Since he was 10, Matt – or Matthew as his mum would really prefer him to be known – has dreamed of calling the world’s richest two-mile (3200-metre) handicap.

In nice statistical synchronicity, he was appointed to take over the reins as top feature race caller at age of 36 – the same number of Melbourne Cups called by his mentor and great mate Greg Miles, who retired earlier this year.

“Other kids had pictures of footballers and supermodels on their walls, but my idols were always race broadcasters and sports commentators; Greg Miles, Bruce McAvaney,” he says. “There is probably an element of nerdiness to it, but I know come Melbourne Cup Day I am in the coolest place.”

 

Dr Jurds Cup Day, Race caller Matthew Hill in July 2004. Picture by PETER STOOP

Dr Jurds Cup Day, Race caller Matthew Hill in July 2004. Photo: Peter Stoop

As a boy from Altona, Matt’s introduction to racing was hardly auspicious. He and his brother used to sleep in the back of a horse trailer on the long haul to country meets with a trainer friend of the family.

“Frankly, I hated it. I thought, what are these cantankerous, smelly things? But something got me at the track. I would stand at the fence and watch the races and think, this is pretty exciting.

“We came to Flemington one day and I remember pinching the race book from my mum’s hand. That’s when I started to really listen to the races. On track and on radio, the caller would be the person to bring it to life and I wanted to do that. It sort of got me a bit obsessed.”

Matt would go to the track and practise calling the races into his little tape recorder, later replaying his efforts over and over at home, listening with a highly critical ear. “I drove mum nuts, I think,” he says with a grin.

 

Kembla Races, Race Caller Matthew Hill on his last day of calling at Kembla Grange. 13th June 2009. Picture: Ken Robertson

Matthew Hill on his last day of calling at Kembla Grange in June 2009. Photo: Ken Robertson

Matt called his first race – a two-horse event at a non-TAB meeting at Healesville – when he was 16. The inaugural winner of the John Tapp race-calling scholarship at 18, Matt would go on to become Sydney’s chief race caller with Sky Racing.

His talents have taken him to 11 countries, including calling six Grand Nationals for the BBC, but his broadcast skills are not limited to horse-racing. He has broadcast the Australian Open, five Olympics, even the World Junior Speed Skating Championship and, after returning to Melbourne in 2014, the AFL for ABC Grandstand.

“Without sounding overly romantic about it, you work hard,” he says of his path to the nation’s No. 1 race-calling job. “I called at so many bush joints. I said yes to greyhounds, camels, dragon boat races, and then I nearly died at the Beijing Olympics when I contracted a viral thing, had to be medevaced out and was in a coma for ages.

“The Scotch at the end of Melbourne Cup Day will be for the journey … for the bloody hard work that has gone into it.” ●

● Hear Matt call the Melbourne Cup on Channel 7 and racing.com at 3pm, Tuesday, November 7.

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