When I was a teenager I loved nothing more than to leave the little bush town where our family lived (population about 30) and come to the big smoke in Brisbane and stay with my wonderful grandparents on school holidays at suburban Ashgrove. They’ve both been sadly gone for decades, but something my grandmother preached to me at every opportunity has stayed with me through my entire life. Like many other testosterone charged young teenage males, I was “a bit fizzy” and with hindsight was prone to opening the mouth before the brain was engaged. My grandmother obviously picked up on that early and in a loving way she used to say “Phil, you have to learn to count to 10 before you open your mouth when something upsets you”. Nearly half a century on, I remember her words like she was still right beside me.

And so it came to pass that Toowoomba racecaller Pat O’Shea made a total stuff-up of his call of the Bernborough Handicap at Toowoomba on New Year’s Eve. That was a right royal stuff up? Out came the knives. Most were shocked by the dreadful call. Social media lit up berating the man and the call. I said nothing publicly; I’d learnt all those years ago to walk away and was still counting to 10 when everyone else was going ballistic.

It would seem to me that in the society in which we live, everyone almost to a man and woman wants to immediately move in for the kill when someone does a perfectly human thing – and occasionally makes a stuff-up. It’s kind of like the “how dare Pat O’Shea stuff up” mentality.

The simple facts and realities are that Pat O’Shea has been calling racing and sport such as rugby league, on the Darling Downs for some decades. Sure he’s been paid for it, but he’s also been a wonderful servant to the Toowoomba racing industry, particularly in that timeframe as the resident racecaller at Clifford Park. He’s called thousands of races without a hiccup. He’d probably be the first to admit that he’s no Bert Bryant or Johnny Tapp, but if racecallers all had the same degree of talent, Bert Bryant and Johnny Tapp wouldn’t stand out in my mind, so every spectre of life will have the odd standout, but most will be only average. Similarly if Pat O’Shea was deemed to be Queensland’s top racecaller, he’d be calling every Saturday in Brisbane. Isn’t that a fair conclusion? So the mere fact that he’s calling at Toowoomba or Dalby or wherever means he’s not the top rung on the ladder, but he’s certainly further up the ladder than the bloke calling at Dingo or Morven, with respect to the person or persons who call there. Put simply, the higher up the ladder one is, the less mistakes they should be allowed. As an analogy, the Managing Director of Woolworths is responsible for the entire company. The buck stops with him. The Manager at the Toowoomba branch can hardly be held responsible if Woolworths is going broke nationally.

Every racecaller ever born makes stuff-ups. It’s an occupational hazard. Didn’t Alan Thomas get two photo finishes wrong recently one Saturday in Brisbane? So what? I personally think he’s one of the best racecallers I’ve ever heard in my lifetime and I’ve heard them all. If you asked me to give you four words to describe Alan Thomas, I’d say he’s “just a beautiful racecaller”. Yet only a few months ago he got two photo finishes wrong on the one day. What should we do – publicly hang the bloke in the Queen Street Mall in Brisbane the following Monday when everyone is on their lunch break to maximise numbers that can attend? Hardly. Over the annals of time, numerous racecallers have even called the wrong horse winning. It’s easily done. Once they get a name of a horse in their head, it often keeps that name for the whole race.

Since the Bernborough Handicap race call, the Toowoomba Club has come out in support of Pat O’Shea. They shouldn’t need to. Pat O’Shea is allowed to stuff up like the rest of us – as we are all human. And part of being human is that we’ll all make a stuff-up occasionally. That’s all part of the journey called life. And it’s important to understand that there are different degrees of “stuff-ups” in our society. If the pilot of a jet plane stuffs up, he can kill all 300 passengers on board. If a surgeon stuffs up during my next colonoscopy when he’s having his way with me with “two metres of garden hose” where the sun doesn’t shine, he can perforate my bowel and kill me. If a driver in a car or truck heading towards you on the highway stuffs up he can kill you and/or your entire family. At the end of the day all Pat O’Shea did was forget the name of one silly racehorse in a horse race. Hardly public execution stuff – except in 2013/2014 – when everyone in our feral and pathetic society is seemingly so intolerant that road rage and alcohol fuelled violence are sadly two accepted cornerstones of our so called modern society.

You know I fancy that if people want to understand what is truly important in their life they ought to take the time out to go for a walk through the cancer ward at a children’s hospital, then they might have some sort of appreciation of just how insignificant Pat O’Shea’s stuff-up during his call of the 2013 Bernborough Handicap really was. Whilst everyone in the debate is able to make their own mind up on the issue, I think it’s a shame that those holding Pat O’Shea in open condemnation weren’t blessed enough in life to spend some time with my late grandmother – and learn to walk away and count to 10 before engaging their mouth.

And what was Pat O’Shea’s retort to that shocking call that he’d just experienced? When a lesser man – who hadn’t even been in hospital and sick for months – would have walked away and handed the microphone to another person, he didn’t miss a beat 35 or 40 minutes later in the next race. Walking on eggshells to take the microphone for that next race must have taken some ticker. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have found a corner to hide in than call that next race.

And at the age of 58 not many things make my heart race, but I’ll tell you one that does and it still would on my death bed – and that would be Pat O’Shea calling the wonderful Queensland mare Seawinne home in the 1995 Weetwood Handicap at Clifford Park in Toowoomba under 60 kgs for jockey Jim Byrne and her late trainer and gentleman of the turf – Frank Penfold. Eighteen years on from that spinechilling Seawinne call, Pat O’Shea made a blunder and in typical 2013/2014 fashion in the throw-away world we live in, the world conveniently forgot about all the man’s good calls. We certainly live in changing times.

Racing Queensland Chief Handicapper Lester Grimmett has sent the scaled weights through for tomorrow’s Gold Coast meeting and they are: Race 2 + 3 kgs, Race 4 – 1 kg, Race 5 + 1 kg and Race 7 – 1 kg.

The apprentice jockey weights for tomorrow should be:



Tegan Harrison

50 claims 1.5 kgs.

Priscilla Schmidt

51 claims 2 kgs.

Anthony Allen

50 claims 1.5 kgs.

Alisha Taylor

51 claims 3 kgs.

Geoffrey Goold

54 claims 3 kgs.

Rikki Jamieson

50 claims 3 kgs.

Kirk Matheson

52 claims 2 kgs.

Maija Vance

54 claims 2 kgs.


Today on there’s a preview of Gold Coast Race 6. On there are photos of the Scorpio Queen race from Toowoomba to show exactly where she was in the run and quotes from the call of Pat O’Shea are included with relevant photos, whilst on Mat Nicholls looks at Caulfield.