NEXT Tuesday Simon Marshall, former jockey and racing personality, will co-host the Melbourne Cup coverage on Channel Seven.
You rode 15 group 1 winners as a jockey. How did you get into the media?
I was about 18 when I realised my career as a jockey could be short-lived, and some wise heads said I should start looking for something else and develop some other skill sets. I won the Australian Cup and I was interviewed by Bruce McAvaney, and from that I thought there hadn’t really been a presenter who had come out of the saddle and taken up the microphone as such, so I got elocution lessons, did some radio work and picked up a gig in 1996 at Channel Nine as a guest reporter, working with Tony Jones and Lou Richards. I ended up getting a contract with Channel Nine in 1997.
You rode in three Melbourne Cups. How many have you covered?
Is the excitement of covering it anything like riding in it?
You still get excited. It places you back when you rode and what the jockeys are going through when they get introduced in the mounting yard before you get on the horse.
The race has become much more international as more countries are represented by various horses. How do the jockeys feel about that?
It was intriguing to us that they could come from the other side of the world and compete with our horses. The 24-hour flight for a horse is very demanding. I had respect that they had a crack at it. Anybody can get a horse fit to ride. Only great people can get them there mentally to be a champion.
What do you try to bring to the telecast?
Racing is different. It has its own pulse, especially the four days at Flemington. You get 400,000 people there over those days. It’s our opportunity to talk a bit of racing to those who [wouldn’t usually watch]. Most people are fascinated with how fast and far a 500-kilogram thoroughbred can run and how hard it is for a jockey to stir it and get it going. You try to break all that down. It’s a lot of fun but quite challenging.
Bruce McAvaney is a doyen of Australian sport. What’s it like working with him?
He has become a doyen through study and passion of sport. Racing is in his blood and through his family. He gets wrapped up in the storyline and the history of it. His No.1 passion is the 100-metre [sprints at the] Olympics, but very close would be the Cup.
Are you allowed to bet in your role?
I am now I’m not a registered rider. I like a quaddie with my mates. I’ll also support my own horses with the company I am involved in, DC3 Riders.
As a jockey, did you find the crowd’s focus on the social element of Cup day a distraction?
If you’re new at it, you become a rubberneck and walk away gobsmacked at what actually goes on and how many people get there. But when you get on a beast that you’ve been getting up at 4am every day to [work with], the adrenalin kicks in and your mind focuses on winning that race. You flick the switch and concentrate on what you have to do.