DAVID RAPHAEL is a legend in the world of race calling and broadcasting building up a solid reputation for being the one of the best prepared and most knowledgeable racing presenters of his time. He has been spending time in Cape Town visiting the sales and will attend the J&B Met on Saturday. He has already called a race at Kenilworth on Cape Flying Championship day.
The man who called "The Pride of South Africa" London News home in Hong Kong's QE II Cup in 1997 has taken the time to answer some questions we posed to him...
Welcome to South Africa, David. What brings you here?
Why wouldn't anyone want to come to Cape Town at this time of year, but of course it is for Racing and the Sales. If there is a big race on we are covering at Sky anywhere in the world there is a good chance you will see me. I will also be active at the sales. I have been telling people for a long time that a good South African Horse is as good as any other regions and it is about time I tried to find one of our own!
For the readers who don't know you, give them a brief few lines on your background.
Born in Melbourne, home of the Melbourne Cup. I found my way to a broadcast box at the age of 13 or 14 when I first called a harness racing barrier trial. I was given the full time calling job at the trials on the spot! No fee but the experience was worth more than money and then I went on to call at several tracks over the following 18 months. By the time I was 18 I was picked up by the Racing Radio Station as they must of seen some talent in me, and it has been looking forward from that time until today.
You have been here a few times, what do think of the racing structures?
I wouldn't be the person to correctly comment on the set up of racing structures in South Africa but it does seem as though there has been a lot happening in South Africa on this matter. My only opinion is that for a region like this I would think that a National Body is the common sense approach. This does not mean that every region should or would lose its individual marketing aspects or identity but for the bigger matters as funding and future planning a 'one aspect' policy or group should be a strong one.
The best horse you have seen here live?
By this weekend Igugu should fill that line! other than this Pocket Power would be top of the list. I didn't see Yard Arm on his best day but still well aware of great horse he was. I have seen all of last years three olds and they were a deep crop as well!
Being Australian you must have an opinion on Black Caviar, how good is she and why are the connections not traveling her overseas?
They are taking her overseas. She will be in Ascot this year and I have not seen a horse that I would confidently say could beat her at this moment. Saying that I think Val de Ra would be very close to her at her pet trip. I have not seen many horses in the past two decades that have the high cruising speed Black Caviar has as she seems to do it so easily. Her performance in the Newmarket was probably the most dominant win I have ever seen.
Do you think one can rate a horse the world's best in a division if they haven't traveled or competed against internationally raced horses?
I think a horse can win on it's home ground and be considered the dominant or best of its division but when there are a few from different regions that hold that position they must clash to be clearly labelled the best. Nowadays, in my opinion, to be considered a true champion the ability to travel and perform in another region must be achieved. Durban July and J&B Met duel winners lists proves this. Many great horses have won one of these races but to win both is something rare. Its fair to say that by traveling and winning overseas it makes the world take more notice of the great horse you are and you don't have to always win. Its not uncommon for a horses best run to be in defeat. For example when New Zealand's Sunline was gassed by a few early in her Dubai race but was still in the finish with Jim and Tonic and Fairy King Prawn the world then rated her as one of the best mares that has ever raced. All that off not winning that night.
How does form hold in South African races seeing that you are often asked to provide an opinion on races?
I think Group 1 form in South Africa at the front end of a field is as solid as anywhere. Results and consistency stand up throughout most of the year. SA form is standing up in Dubai, although some of the 'support group races' are not as strong as other regions in my opinion in Dubai.
You are a world class race caller as expressed by many, why don't you call as often anymore?
I made the decision a few years ago to try and do something different than just being a race caller. I do not mean that disrespectfully to anyone. Race Calling at a high level is a learned art and takes years to get right and at the end of the day it is up to the listener if you are considered good or bad. One bad call and the world says you are rubbish!
I wanted to get out of the callers box and try to get in front of the camera and promote our industry around the world along with developing new business. Sky Racing in Australia have been a big part of that with a commitment to covering global racing for our audience. I did feel I could not achieve much more as a race caller in Hong Kong other than keep trying to call race's with the same passion. I knew I could do that for another 10 or 15 years but would I be doing the best for myself and the sport I love to just keep doing that. It was probably also trying to get outside my comfort zone of the broadcast box.
Today I fly around the world covering the best events for our audience. I think I have made the right decision and I hope that our audience appreciates the efforts I put in to get our broadcasts out. If I could call as well I would seriously make the efforts to do this as but at this point that has not presented itself to me. I put a lot of myself into our coverage and our audiences seem to enjoy this and that makes it worth the effort.
Lets speak about the best..
Tell us about the best horse you have seen live?
This is too hard to put in just a couple of lines...... so maybe just a few names.
Sunline, Better Loosen Up, Silent Witness, Placid Ark, T M Opera O, Deep Impact, Gallileo, Sea the Stars, Falbrav, Zenyatta, Makybe Diva, Black Caviar and when I see Igugu this weekend she will fit into that group!.....and a harness racing horse that had everything the above names had and a bit more, Popular Alm.
The best interview you have ever conducted?
When the Iraq War had broken out just a few days prior to the Dubai World Cup, Chris Lincoln and I were the hosts of the Dubai World Cup Global Coverage and we interviewed Sheikh Mohammed. We asked that the world felt that maybe this meeting should not of been run. In true Sheikh Mohammad style his response was magic. "If we stopped something every time in our lives there was a problem we would get nothing done!"
Another great line was when I called Fantastic Light beating Galileo and the boss produced "today we looked to the sky and saw a fantastic light"
Mike de Kock during a World Cup telecast when a protest was being heard was standing with me, live to a global feed, and we went over the race replay only for him to tell the world "If an official turns that result over he should be sacked!" He was right of course!
Talking live from the broadcast box directly to the winning jockeys as they pulled up after HKIR events was also a great thrill..... maybe a book of all of these is brewing!
The best Jockey in your opinion?
There is a short list..... Most naturally gifted, Eric Saint Martin by a mile! Most adaptable..... Dettori. Strongest.... Olivier Doleuze. Big Race Rider... Mosse. Most Consistent.... D Whyte. The one horses travel the best for.... Craig Williams. Best out of the gates.... Pat Valenzuela. Jo Moreira is amongst the best and New Zealands James MacDonald is as good as any rider on the planet!
The best race meeting in the world?
Melbourne Cup the best event.... Best race meet depends on the fields! Royal Ascot always has a special day. Derby Day in Victoria is always special. Durban July used to be in that list but now that it is stretched out over such a long period I think it has taken a huge amount off the 'racing aspect' of the day.
An up and coming racing country to watch over the next 10 years in terms of the quality of horses, racing vision, human resource?
Russia and South Africa. Russia is unknown to the rest of the world but has the ability to grow quickly if they ever sort out their regulations and rules. Your country, you already know your depth but quarantine is stopping the world get a little more insight to your horses on the ground. Television coverage is the most under rated marketing weapon that every region has. Sounds an obvious statement but I wonder if all regions can say they are doing their best to promote their industry with this coverage? France is a leader in their TV pictures but have shot themselves in the foot by charging silly prices for anyone wanting to take their product.
Having spent many years in Hong Kong, how much has the Hong Kong Jockey Club changed, and what sort of job have they done in terms of integrating a largely historical English sport into Chinese culture?
The HKJC had moved from a colonial based club from three decades past to a focused group today that can achieve things as they are the only major sport in their town. They are in a unique situation. The Chinese Culture of betting has always driven the sport and in some ways there is no way for the HKJC to fail whilst there racing product is strong and clean. Moving from Amateur to Professional in the 70's secured their future.
Finally, we have as country of 90% indigenous population who are not interested in racing due to several valid perceptions, how do you suggest we embrace that group?
I will answer your question with a question, something I was told I should not do as a young child but occasionally it needs to be done. Does the 90% you are talking about really know about racing? A simple question but has it been asked and is the answer can be found inside that question.
Valid Perceptions is another question to ask. What people inside our sport perceive our sport to look like is not always the way it looks to others. That is something I have seen globally.
There are many issues in South Africa that I am not qualified to know enough about to comment on but I believe that racing in this country can offer so many people so many improvements to their lives beyond just backing a winner. You see I was a going nowhere kid until I found a broadcast box, this sport has changed me, why not for anyone else in the world?
READERS ARE WELCOME TO POSE THEIR OWN QUESTIONS TO DAVID RAPHAEL BELOW..