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Veteran Race Caller Calls It A Day

Veteran Race Caller Calls It A Day

The voice of racing for 47 years, Reon Murtha, will pull down the curtain on his race calling career at this year’s Canterbury NZ Cup Carnival in November.

His retirement has prompted a trans-Tasman search for a replacement, but as Canterbury Jockey Club chief executive Tim Mills says, “They’re pretty big boots to fill”.

However Reon’s experience and depth of knowledge of racing won’t be lost. NZRB Head of Broadcasting Glen Broomhall, says he will continue to work with the New Zealand Racing Board using his lifetime of experience to contribute to the future of race broadcasting.

“Reon’s vast experience will be used to mentor a new generation of race callers with a view to maintaining the high standards to which he has always been committed.”

Reon’s first introduction to racing was on the West Coast where his father was on the committee of the Reefton Jockey and Trotting Clubs and his grand father was a Clerk of the Course.

“It was a boyhood ambition of mine to become a race caller,” he remembers.

While there was no official training for such a calling, he says training as a radio announcer on Greymouth radio stations helped him in using his voice and language in the right way to achieve his aspiration. His debut race call was in Reefton in 1960.

His career since then has been studded with both thoroughbred racing and harness industry awards reflecting his outstanding contribution as well as mainstream awards including the MNZM in 2005 for services to broadcasting.

Calling such historic races as the 1980 duel between Delightful Lady and Hands Down at Addington has contributed to scores of great memories, but Reon is well known as an objective caller who doesn’t allow his opinions and emotions to influence his commentating.

It hasn’t always been easy to subdue the excitement, for example when calling the Listed South Island Thoroughbred Breeders Stakes in April this year, won by Ombre Rose a filly he parts owns, was just one of the seven wins in which he’s been able to call her home first.

The professionalism he maintained on that occasion and at all times has earned him respect industry-wide with accolades coming from both thoroughbred and harness racing codes.

Addington Raceway CEO Mike Godber says, “Reon has been the voice of Addington since 1971. His calls of the great New Zealand Cups and Inter Dominion Finals have been heard and seen throughout Australasia and made him a legend in his own right. He is the last of a great era of radio commentators who called racing through the 1970s and 80s”.

Mr Godber adds,” He has been a true professional through his background training in radio and Reon was just as effective on Trackside TV and ranks right up there with the legendary commentators Dave Clarkson and Peter Kelly”.

Canterbury Jockey Club chief executive Tim Mills says Reon Murtha’s retirement marks the end of an era.

“Racing is an industry that revolves around horses, jockeys and trainers, but there are others who put an important mark on the game,’ Mr Mills says.

“Reon has been an outstanding personality on the turf. Generations of race followers grew up with his voice. His name is synonymous with racing in the south.

“He is a true gentleman of the game – you never hear a bad word about him. He will be very difficult to replace.”


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