‘The Cup is special’: Caller Matt Hill on why he loves the first Tuesday in November
Spring 2018 has already been a big one for Victorian race-caller Matt Hill – and it hasn’t yet reached its peak.
In just his second year as the state’s No.1 race-caller, he has already called superstar mare Winx to victory in her historic fourth Cox Plate.
On Tuesday, November 6, Hill will call his second Melbourne Cup.
“That’s about the hardest part of my gig this year – calling two grand finals in one week,” Hill said.
“But the Cup is special, the very essence of the race – it’s a privilege.”
Preparation is a crucial part of Hill’s job. At the blink of an eye, he has to be able to pick out a horse or its rider, he has to know its trainer, its background and – most important of all – how to say its name.
Add an element of history, such as calling Winx’s fourth Cox Plate, and Hill has plenty on his plate. He spent a year preparing for the 2018 Cox Plate – mostly working out just what he wanted to say when Winx passed the winning post.
“I’ve had the chance to do some amazing things before … but calling that race was in the three big moments of my career,” he said.
“That race had to have a moment and I had to have the words to match.
“Every chance I got, I tried to workshop what I was going to say about this amazing horse.”
In the end, as a packed crowd cheered Winx home, Hill went into broadcast history with “cometh the hour, cometh the legend”.
Hill might be in only his second year as the voice of Victoria’s big races, but he has a distinguished career in sports broadcasting. He has been part of the commentary teams for several Olympic Games and on Sydney’s Radio 2GB, and a member of the ABC Grandstand and News Radio teams.
— Racing.com (@Racing) November 7, 2017
But racing is his No.1. Before heading south to Victoria, Hill spend five years as Sydney’s chief race caller and has called races around the world, including in Britain, Europe and Japan.
“I love horse racing and have always wanted to be a race-caller,” he told Racing.com in 2017.
“Being from Melbourne, this has always been the role that meant the most to me.
“From when I was a young lad walking on to Flemington, I was always fascinated by the sound of the races and those who called the action.”
Now Hill’s is the voice that millions hear when Australia stops for the Melbourne Cup on the first Tuesday in November. His preparation for the big race hits the next level on the Sunday before – once he has the final details of the Cup field.
Hill will study the horses and all their details. He also makes colour-coded cheatsheets for every horse in the Cup – and does similar research for horses in the nine other races at Flemington that day.
“It literally is a little bit like an old-school exam,” he said.
“I take every chance I get from when the field comes out on the Saturday night.”
In 2017, Hill called his first Melbourne Cup – a day at work he describes as surreal.
“You’re not doing anything differently to what you would be if you were calling at Flemington in June, but everything is different,” he said.
“I felt a bit like I was at a massive concert. Someone could have come up behind me and grabbed me and I would not have known.”
This year, he knows what to expect – right down to the marquee on the grandstand side that blocks his view when the horses are just 300 metres from the winning post.
“We’ve got a camera on the Hill Stand to get a special shot” so none of the action is missed at a crucial point in the race.
This year, Hill is even prepared to offer a cautious tip about the likely winner.
“I hate tipping favourites – but Yucatan, his run at Caulfield [on October 13] had to be seen to be believed.”
By about 3.15pm on November 6 (ADST), we will know if Hill was right.