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Col Hodges calls first past the post fifty years on

Legendary western NSW race caller Colin Hodges, of Forbes, NSW. Photo contributed

Tricia Duffield

Legendary horse race caller and The Western Herald racing columnist, Col Hodges, has seen thousands of horses cross the finish line and brought the good news – and bad – to punters for more than five decades.

There’s no serious thought of retiring for Col though, who still has a passion for the races and still admits to nerves before every race meeting.

“I did think about retiring about 48 years ago after I made a mistake,” Col said.

“But I work for about 30 different race clubs as well as Sky Racing and Racing Radio in Sydney and as long as they keep asking me, I’ll keep turning up.

“It’s when I can’t climb the ladder up to the box that will make me give it serious thought!”

Col has missed just two race meets in his entire 50 years of calling, including once when he was so ill his doctor advised that if he went to the races the next day, he wouldn’t return alive.

The floods have been an unwelcome burden on many smaller country race clubs, on top of COVID and the drought, but while the races might sometimes be scratched, it seems nothing will stop Col from climbing the ladder to the caller’s box.

“We had the Narromine meeting about two weeks ago, but since I live in Forbes and the flood put the highway out of play, I had to give Narromine away and they called it off the TV screen in Sydney.

“Three days later Bathurst was on, and they re – opened one of the roads out of Forbes, but I was stranded on an island in south Forbes.

“I told Bathurst and Sky Channel I’d be there, so I thought I’d better get there. A fire engine got me through the first lot of floodwater and then I caught a boat from the main street of Forbes which took me almost to North Forbes, but I had to walk the last bit through the water, so I ended up calling Bathurst in wet clothes,” Col said.

“The floods have affected so many towns and they’re doing it hard at the moment, but it wasn’t that long ago when they were almost calling off races because there was too much dust – it’s a funny old climate here in Australia.

“It’s not just the horses I admire, it’s all the people in the racing game. I’m lucky, I just call the races, but I think of the trainers who have to get up when it’s frost and in the stinking heat, then carting them to racetracks, and the owners who have had hard times on the land, getting their horses together – and the racing keeps going.”

Col first started race calling when he was just a boy in a one-teacher bush school at Gunning Gap performing phantom race calls at Christmas. He had some old – time race callers as mentors, including Bobby Gunn, who travelled across the western region.

“Bobby Gunn took me under his wing, calling meetings at the races – the dogs, trots, gallops – but he got ill and gave the game away.

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