Local boy calls Riverina’s first Group 1 race

Anthony Manton, pictured here with his pacer Bobsled Boy, recently called the first Group One race held by any of the three racing codes in the Riverina, when commentating on the running of the 2020 Riverina Region Championships at Wagga last Friday. Photo: Ashlea Brennan.

It couldn’t have been scripted any better for Anthony Manton, who fulfilled a childhood dream at the Riverina Paceway on Friday, when calling the running of the 2020 Riverina Region Championships.

What made the event so special for the Gundagai boy, who is now a prominent race caller for Sky Racing, was that this race was the first ever Group One event held by any of the racing codes in the Riverina.

“It was a big thrill, particularly given it was the first ever Group One race in the Riverina, and I feel really fortunate to be the one that was in that position to call it,” Manton said.

“After the race, I was just thinking; if someone had told me I would be doing this as a kid, I would have laughed at them.”

The 36-year-old didn’t have it easy in the call either, with the short-price favourite, Whereyabinboppin, having his chances cruelled and the bolter, Rocky Creed, sneaking home at the ripe old odds of $48.50.

“It was a crazy race, it certainly didn’t go how I expected it would and they made it very tough for old Whereyabinboppin,” Manton laughed.

The race caller is starting to make a name for himself in Riverina racing circles, calling thoroughbred and harness racing meetings with energy and vigour, after the recent retirement of Allan Hull.

Despite being billed as the new voice of Riverina racing, Manton explained he had responsibilities all over the state.

“I am happy to be the voice of that area but you need to remember, I am employed full time by Sky Racing and I need to go where the boss tells me,” Manton said.

“A lot of people asked me if I was going to move to Wagga after Allan retired but I am not, we call all over the state and calling in Wagga just isn’t a full time job.

“I am going to do the bulk of them, I am happy to travel from Sydney to call the Wagga races and I did the Gundagai Cup recently and I think I have Gundagai the week after next.”

Despite being well known as a clear and consistent race caller, it has been a long road to the spotlight for the local product, having worked behind the scenes before making a name for himself. 

“When I was younger, I did a voiceover technique training course in Sydney but I was already working in the industry before then,” Manton said.

“I had one job out of high school, which was in a real estate office for 12 months, and my first job in racing came in around 2003 or 2004, which had me doing a little bit of journalism, race book comments and video commentary for Racenet.”

After his time commenting on racing with Racenet, Manton took to bookmaking, working with multiple agencies, calling on his experience as a form analysis.

“My next job came with Centrebet and I was a form analysis and bookmaker for them and then I did the same job for the TAB when fixed odds wagering was really beginning to take hold,” Manton said.

All the while, Manton was keeping up his dream of one day calling at the races, filling in at the odd race meeting, or attending trials, further honing his talents that he calls upon today.

“I would work Monday to Friday and on the weekends I would get in my car and drive to Sydney for trials or out bush for a country meeting,” Manton said.

“I was still pursuing race calling as my dream job and doing anything I could to make that happen.”

Then came the moment that made it all worthwhile, with Manton finally given the chance to call races on a regular basis.

“I guess my big break was in 2010; they have the John Tapp scholarship for race callers and I was a finalist and although I didn’t win, it opened up some opportunities,” Manton said. 

“Not long after that competition, a job did open up in Malaysia and I went there in 2011 and I called races there for a coupe of years and I even called Group One races there.”

After dabbling in overseas race calling, Manton came back to Australia with a vision of establishing himself as a fulltime race caller.

“Then I came back in about 2013 and I worked for TVN, which was the race channel that covered racing in Sydney and Melbourne and I called whenever Mark Shean was unavailable,” Manton said.

“I was doing more television then calling at TVN before going to Sky, and working under Josh Fleming, who was calling in Sydney.

“Josh then got the job in Brisbane and that left a hole and because I had the experience of presenting and calling, I got the chance to call a lot more.”

For a while, Manton presented and hosted but these days, he finds himself all over the country side, adding his own unique flair to race meetings.

“I kind of juggled calling races and hosting duties for a while and now I go wherever I am told to call, it could be Wagga, Gundagai, Wyong, Scone, Muswellbrook, Taree or anywhere,” Manton said. 

At the moment, Manton is happy to be the voice of the Riverina though, calling TAB meetings in both major racing codes, but he did admit there would be times some meetings overlapped, meaning he couldn’t call both. 

“For the foreseeable, Wagga and other tracks in the area will be covered by myself,” Manton said.

“I am doing all the gallops at the moment and the bulk of the trots but we also work on a roster and sometimes people take leave and sometimes meetings clash.”

As far as future aspirations, Manton said he would love to have the opportunity to progress to metropolitan and Group race calling, but admitted that was a long shot.

“We all aspire to call Group Ones but the reality is, and given the hierarchy of how the current crop of race callers are set up, that just isn’t possible,” Manton said.

“The top jobs are taken for the next 20 years, and the reality is that I’ve probably reached my peak, and although I would love to think there is level above, there probably isn’t.”

Still, Manton is content is his current role and still has to remind himself occasionally that he is living the dream, working in the industry he loves. 

“I am doing something I love and if someone told me I would be doing this as I kid, I would not have believed them,” Manton said.

“I love doing this and I am privileged that I am able to live out a childhood dream.”