We are delighted to bring you an Interview with Sky Sports Racing’s Tim Carrol. The Australian, who is a former Jockey (& not just of horses!) talks about his career, backroom bookmaking & Winx amongst other things….
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself please?
Born in Melbourne. Follow Hawthorn (AFL) and Sydney Roosters (NRL) Lived in England for 16 years now and love it, except for the weather. No one from my part of the world will ever understand how it can be shorts no shirt weather one day and jeans and jumper the next!
Have worked in the racing industry since I left school at 15 and lucky to be someone who makes a living in an industry they love. Pretty easy going but too old and impatient to suffer fools.
At what age did you find yourself getting into racing?
Due to my upbringing I was aware of racing from a very young age and placed my first bet at 7yo, which was on a grand old campaigner from New Zealand, Battle Heights. My great grandparents ran a SP bookmakers betting service, which may have been a tad illlegal!!, from the back room of their Melbourne home. Even though I was very young at the time, I remember the phones would always be going off, especially on Saturdays, and plenty of activity in the house.
What was your earliest racing memory?
Watching replays of Secretariat winning the 1973 Belmont in the greatest performance ever seen on a racetrack. I was too young to really understand it at the time, however I watched it many times over as I knew it was something special.
Then watching Battle Heights win the 1974 Cox Plate, which was the first time I was allowed to place a bet (through an older family member lol), and was the first time I cheered home a winner.
Did you always want to work in the racing media or did you have another career in mind?
I wanted to play Rugby League or Cricket for Australia, but for reasons I don’t fully understand, that just didn’t work out. I ran a book on the quiet at school on Rugby League and did give serious consideration to becoming a bookmaker, which probably would have been the smarter play in hindsight.
Ive always been a competitive person, so sport was going to be the number one option. I was small when I was younger, I loved racing and could ride, so it just made sense to go and be a jockey.
How long have you been working in racing media and how did you get your first job?
My first job in the media was back in 1993. I had given away race riding due to increasing weight and was at a crossroads. I was very fortunate in that a well known horse owner was also the GM of the local racing/sports radio station and offered me a traineeship. I was told at the time I was a good talker and had a good radio voice, which may have been a way of saying a didn’t have a face for TV, lol
What advice would you give anyone looking to get into the racing media?
From a background perspective you generally get two type of people in the racing media. A racing person, or serious punter, who have fallen into media, or someone who always wanted to work in the media, Im definitely the former. Ive been very lucky in that I seem to have been in the right place at the right time. But the best bit of advice I can give a young budding racing media journalist is to be persistent.
Once you get a foot in the door, listen, pay attention and don’t think you know everything. Believe me, I’ve been doing this for more years than I care to admit to, I feel I am well educated having worked at many different levels around the globe, but you never stop learning in this game. And if you’re doing any presenting or writing, do your home work. I like to feel I know more about the form of the horse than the connections, even if I don’t.
You are now with Sky Sports Racing/ATR, how long have you been working with them & can you tell us what your job entails please?
Im in my 5th year with SKY/ATR and can honestly say Ive enjoyed every minute of it, well except for the commute, which can test the most patient of people. For SKY I mostly cover Stateside from America, and as a strong supporter of International racing, I enjoy hosting the American action and trying to break it down for local audiences.
I do love our local racing here, but there are so many people covering it I doubt anyone needs me throwing my two bobs worth in every day. Whereas with the International product I feel there is only a small number of people who can talk it up, at least with authority, and that provides a niche for people like myself.
For ATR I contribute a twice weekly piece on Hong Kong racing, again trying to break down an International jurisdiction for local audiences. There was plenty of focus on Hong Kong during COVID 19 as it was one of the few jurisdictions who managed to continue racing, and I’d like to think that what we do at ATR with the article and the information on the website has not only given people a better understanding of the best ‘oiled machine’ in racing, but has also converted a few going forward.
I also provide one off articles and usually do a runner by runner guide for the Melbourne Cup, and I’m pleased to say with our top 5 selections last year we landed the first four (popular bet type in Australia), which paid in excess of $20K. I’ll probably be accused of lip service, but writing is something I’ve only started doing on a regular basis for ATR 3 years ago, and again, I really do enjoy working for one of the best racing sites on the internet.
Let’s have a few Favourites…..
Double Dandy. Was riding him out and backed him for a small fortune when he won at Randwick at 240/1. I was 17 at the time (shhhhh) and it set me up very nicely.
Im very proud of the way Australians embrace racing like no other nation. But Royal Ascot is definitely my favourite meeting of the year.
Favourite race you have ever seen?
Tough one because it depends on which angle you are coming from. So Im going to take a liberty and name a few with reasoning.
1974 Cox Plate- Battle Heights. Backing your first winner at 7/1 is like having sex for the first time. No wonder we go back for more.
1983 Double Dandy at Randwick. 240/1, Ive loaded up. The only thing that annoys me is that I was extremely confident of him winning that day (having galloped him midweek). If it had been 10 years later, when I was older, wiser and had more coin, I would have made enough to never work again, seriously I was that confident.
1986 Cox Plate.
Bonecrusher v Our Waverley Star in the greatest 2 horse battle Ive ever seen. If you get the chance go and google it. Two Kiwi horses went to war that day with neither giving an inch. I backed Bonecrusher but would have been just as happy if it was a dead heat, they both deserved it.
2007 Arc Dylan Thomas.
I had grown up always wanting to attend the Arc. 2007 was the first time I was able to go and watch one live, thus it was a very important day to me. Ive attended every Arc bar one since and never take it for granted that I am able to do these things. Nothing annoys me more than to hear media people at these sort of meeting whinging. Sod off if you don’t like it- you can always go and dig holes for a living.
2012 Frankel into So You Think into Black Caviar at Royal Ascot.
To this day Frankel in the Queen Anne is the greatest performance I have seen live at a racetrack- what a horse. Then it was a relief to see So You Think back after what was a dogs breakfast of a penultimate campaign. And finally Black Caviar. I saw her in the paddock before and after the race that day and it still amazes me she was able to win. Then to come out of the race with two separate injuries only added further merit.
2017 Winx Warwick Stakes.
As someone who does bio + data research I know what she had to do to win that race after blowing the start. She blew the hinges off the door that day- mind blowing. Anyone suggesting she was anything but a freak wouldn’t know which end to stick the carrot. Her bios are simply amazing.
Tell us something about yourself that no one knows?
I rode in the Camel Cup back in the 90s having never sat on a camel. The Camel Cup is quite a big deal and is held in Alice Springs with people from all of the world attending. I went there as the representative of the Station (big property) where I was the head stockman.
They will send the camels around 2 or 3 times in the one day (over 800m if I remember correctly) and the stations cameleer, Henry, broke his arm in the first race when the camel he was riding (having its first start), jumped up at the start, turned around and bolted the wrong way. At this point I’m in the sponsors tent on my second beer when one of the lads ran in saying Henry needed to see me urgently. Turns out he needs a rider for the day and just assumed, as I was the head stockman, that I had ridden camels. I may have also denied having had a couple of beers when asked if I had!!
My first ride was in the Derby on the camel who was responsible for Henry’s broken arm. Fortunately this time around he jumped up and went just as quick, but in the right direction. We led until 100m out when my whip broke on the side of the saddle (made of metal).
It really pissed off to be honest because we should have won, but these camels tend to pull themselves up once you stop whipping them. But when I got back the crew, including Henry (who didn’t go to hospital until it was over) were beside themselves with joy. In horse racing terms- we’d just run 3rd in the Derby on a maiden galloper who would have been 250/1. I then ran 5th in the Camel Cup itself (field of about 16) in what turned out to be a cracking day. I’ve only ever sat on a camel once since then, when on holidays in Jordan.
And to finish…..
Do you have a horse for our readers to put in their trackers?
The cats probably out of the bag now but My Oberon from the William Haggas yard won in stylish fashion at York recently and looks a pattern horse in the making.
In Hong Kong keep an eye out for Golden Sixty. He’s already well known to those who follow Hong Kong racing, but if connections elect to travel him, he certainly wouldn’t be out of place in a race like the Queen Anne or the Dubai Turf. And also in Hong Kong and far less exposed, Joyful Fortune from the David Hall won on debut earlier this month and looks a future top line sprinter in the making, as does Winning Dreamer, who has won two from two for Frankie Lor.
When the Country went into Lockdown, we promised Tim a ‘Proper Interview’ and this is a PROPER interview. We woud like to thank Tim for his time, that he has given so generously and wish him all the sucess for the future….
Interview – Rich Williams
Photos – Tim Carroll