TDN Q & A: Emirates Racing Authority Commentator Pat Comerford

Courtesy Pat Comerford

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES — It has been a circuitous first three decades of life for Pat Comerford, from big city Melbourne to Alice Springs smack dab in the middle of Australia and from studying in Central Missouri to New Zealand to the bright lights of Dubai.

At age 28, Comerford is set to call his first Dubai World Cup meeting, having cut his teeth on the mic in the Northern Territories almost by accident. Called up into a similar role at the Singapore Turf Club–a job that has proved fertile ground for significant advancement into bigger and more glamorous  positions. Comerford was selected last fall as the racecaller at the tracks of the Emirates Racing Association. That not only includes sprawling Meydan Racecourse, but also Jebel Ali, Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and Al Ain.

Comerford graciously took time out of his frenetic schedule to field some questions from TDN Senior Contributing Editor Alan Carasso ahead of Saturday's Dubai World Cup meeting.

TDN: How did you become interested in Thoroughbred racing?

Pat Comerford: Grew up the northwest of Melbourne five minutes from Moonee Valley and 10 minutes from Flemington. Fair to say nine of every 10 people around that area loves a punt. My family weren't involved in racing, just avid racegoers and we loved heading to the races at a young age, especially throughout Melbourne Cup week. I turn 29 this year so I'd say I've been following it the best part of 20 years.

TDN: What got you into commentating?

PC: It's not the usual entry to it. I always had a love for broadcasting and was involved in radio from a young age. After returning to Melbourne following a brief stint at the Missouri School Of Journalism, I graduated back in Australia and got a job in Alice Springs doing breakfast radio. By chance in one of the most remote towns in Australia, the commentator of over 10 years at the Alice Springs Turf Club departed in late 2017 and they were in need of a commentator for the 30-35 meetings each year. I'd never done it before, but being one of the radio presenters in town and heading to the track all the time, they probably thought it was something I could learn. After a few weeks with some help from the outgoing commentator Shane Green, I was calling around the country most weeks and that was my entry in commentating, it was a rough start believe me.

TDN: Australia is home to so many outstanding racecallers. Is there any one of them that you have sort of imitated or that has had a profound impact on you?

PC: Adam Olszanski in my early time in Alice was a great help, he also spent time as a young commentator flying up to Alice Springs to get opportunities. Ric McIntosh was also a great help. In recent times, for both racing and sports commentary advice, Matthew Hill has been a wealth of knowledge and a person I can call a friend. Always free for a call and happy to lend a hand to the young blokes in the game.

TDN: How would you describe your style?

PC: It's a certainly a very Australian style that's for sure. I like to think with my time overseas, I have been able to keep some of the Aussie elements, but also continue adding international elements as I've gone on. A commentator I idolized as a younger person was David Raphael when he called in Hong Kong. He was proof that you can get excited, be a bold and loud voice but also do it with elegance. I've only be calling just over six years, but if I could get to his level and master that style of calling in the near future, I'll be doing well.

TDN: Talk about your experience in Singapore.

PC: Singapore was my first full time overseas calling opportunity, having only called part time during my couple years in New Zealand. Thousands of trials helped me fine tune many things that I never got the experience to do in central Australia and when Nick Child departed to Hong Kong, the Singapore job became available. George Simon, who was the last caller at Bukit Timah and first caller at Kranji was a great mentor during my time in NZ and was a big help in putting me forward for the role. I called my first 6-7 months behind closed doors [due to COVID], but to say it wasn't a massive opportunity would be ridiculous. Getting a chance to start commentating domestic group features allowed me to start putting my name out there and if it wasn't for the chance they gave me, I wouldn't be here in Dubai today.

TDN: Commentating in Singapore been something of a conduit to bigger and better positions elsewhere. Ed Sadler, Brett Davis, Tom Wood, Nick Child, as you pointed out, and one of your predecessors at the ERA, Craig Evans. How did that experience prepare you for this grander stage?

PC: To even be in the line of succession with some of those names is crazy for me to even fathom. There has been some world-class callers come out of Singapore and although I wouldn't class myself anywhere near that bracket yet, all of them I'd say would agree that Singapore certainly improves you as a caller. I personally felt that the track taught me patience, especially long course racing on the turf. The run in at Kranji on the long course feels like it goes forever and so much can unfold in that 600m+. It was the first place where furlong splits and pace was an important element to focus on and include. Having started on the dirt in the Northern Territory where everything is full bore from the get-go, to calling on very heavy tracks in New Zealand, Singapore gave me great experience to understanding who was getting the best run and allowing those predictions to paint a better picture on what was to potentially unfold in the later stages of the race.

TDN: I would be remiss if I didn't ask you for your thoughts on the sad demise of racing in Singapore.

PC: It is truly devastating that as of October, racing in Singapore will no longer exist. I am truly honored that I got the chance to call there, it is a world-class facility that will unfortunately go to waste. Like many racing fans, we all have so many great memories watching many international champions win at Kranji and it will be missed.

TDN: How daunting a task has it been calling the tracks of the ERA, Meydan especially, and how tricky has it been adapting to calling the Purebred Arabians?

PC: Meydan I found the easiest transition. Everything apart from the straight racing was very similar to Singapore. You are quite far away from the course, sitting up high in a big grandstand, so it was quite an easy one to adapt to. The other tracks however were a challenge at first. Many require you to use the vision screens at certain points because you physically cannot see them through the glasses. Add to that the different style of names which from a recall perspective, took a little while to stick in the brain right away. The process is much easier now but you still get an interesting one every now and then. It certainly keeps you on your toes.

TDN: How have you grown into the role since your appointment?

PC: I'd like to think that I have seen further improvement in my calling this season. I'd like to hope that those listening on have enjoyed the races so far this season. It's a bit of a different sound to what they have heard in Dubai previously. All I can hope is that I can match the class of my predecessors who have called here in the past, some great callers have held this position and I certainly don't take the position for granted, I'm very lucky to be in this spot.

TDN: Of all the races on World Cup night, is there a single race or a horse in particular you are most looking forward to seeing/calling?

PC: I'd say I'm tied for that. Hard to split the Auguste Rodin v Liberty Island battle in the Sheema and Kabirkhan in the Dubai World Cup. The Sheema once again is a very deep race and should be a great contest. As for Kabirkhan, if he can get the win for Kazakhstan and Doug Watson, it would be an amazing story.

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