ROB Gaylard’s passion for the Colac Gold Cup once cost him a job.
Gaylard, who grew up in Colac but lives at Lara, reckons he hasn’t missed a Colac Gold Cup since attending his first with his grandfather as a boy.
He has fond memories of most cups. But the 1975 edition, won by Director, stands out for the wrong reasons.
“I got sacked from a job once when I came home for a Colac Cup,” he said.
“I was working in Ballarat at the time, I hadn’t had a holiday for two, three years and I was working for Coles New World in those days.
“I had just bought my first home and I said ‘I’m taking a day off’ to come to Colac.
“I came home to get some advice for my house. My 2IC rang up Melbourne when I left and said ‘he’s not here, he’s gone to the races’ and stabbed me in the back.
“When I got back they had sacked me. In actual fact I did go to the races but I did have appointments to do down there and the bottom line was I did ask for a day off.
“I hadn’t had a holiday for two years. I thought if that’s what my 2IC is doing to me, if that’s what my area manager is doing to me, they can shove their job.”
The tale is one of hundreds Gaylard could tell about his involvement with the Colac Turf Club and its iconic cup.
He discovered a love of the races when he watched his grandfather, John Percy Lemon Gaylard, or JPL to those that knew him, work as the farrier at Colac Racecourse.
A stint riding track work for Norm Rantall followed – Gaylard claims he discovered champion steeplechaser Crisp could jump – before the media industry came calling.
He was a news reader for BTV6 – these days WIN TV – before Channel Nine spotted him hosting the Warrnambool May racing carnival and lured him to Melbourne.
“I was there five days and on the sixth day they turned around and said ‘you’re leading the news with Brian Naylor’. I just s*** myself,” he said.
Today, Gaylard is “the voice and face” of country racing, travelling across the state announcing in mounting yards and interviewing jockeys and trainers.
His passion has become his career and he received an outstanding media contribution to country racing at Country Racing Victoria’s 2011 annual awards.
“I’m always presenting it to other people and when they presented it to me I got the shock of my life,” he said.
Gaylard said his friendship with Irrewillipe trainer Tim Ryan meant Macluen’s 1980 Colac Gold Cup triumph stood out.
When Puramaka, trained by John Slater, saluted in 1978, it was a win for the Colac community.
“One of my great mates was John Slater. I always had an affinity when something local like that happened, it meant something,” Gaylard said.
“The whole town owned that horse. He went on to win three Hamilton Cups and John went off and made a shower of him,” he said.
“Every cup here on in is a memorable one because I’m getting to the stage of my life where I’ve got four, five, six, 10 years left.
“I’m enjoying every one now because it’s getting closer to putting the cue in the rack.”
Clubs must work together to attract top fields
FORMER Colac racing fan Rob Gaylard says south-west Victorian racing clubs must work together to attract top horses to their feature meetings.
Speaking in the lead-up to the 150th Colac Gold Cup, Gaylard said the race had lost prestige as trainers targeted more lucrative metropolitan races.
The respected racing voice said Colac racing officials needed to embrace their counterparts at Camperdown, Terang or Warrnambool to raise the profile of south-west Victorian racing.
Gaylard called for the Colac Gold Cup to become a 1600 or 1800-metre race, a move he said would increase the number of nominated horses.
But he said a bonus for the best-performing horses in three south-west races – at Colac, Camperdown and perhaps Terang – would be a preferable move.
“To me it may have lost a bit of its gloss because we have so many other meetings on at the same time,” Gaylard said of the Colac Gold Cup.
“It’s very hard to attract good fields, prizemoney speaks all languages. I’m a horse owner and the bottom line is I’m attracted to where a horse can win rather than what it’s worth.
“Personally I reckon the cup would attract a better field if it was 1600 or 1800. It’s not a time when you’ve got stayers in work.
“You’re heading to Adelaide Cup a month down the road but you won’t attract Adelaide Cup horses.
“From September to mid November you can afford to run 2000, 2400 cups. Geelong, Bendigo are lead-up races to the Melbourne Cup.
“What incentive do you offer them for a Colac or Kilmore cup in the middle of February? If you brought a Melbourne horse up they’ll be weighed out of it.”
Warrnambool Racing Club is offering a $10,000 bonus for the owners of the horse which accumulates the most points in the Port Fairy, Woodford and Koroit cups.
Horses earn points for finishing in the first four in the three races.
Gaylard said Colac Turf Club should create something similar with its neighbouring clubs.
“If Camperdown got into bed with Colac and someone else and said ‘if you won all three, you’d get a $10,000 bonus’, they’d get a huge amount of interest,” Gaylard said.
“Red Buttons, for argument’s sake, the whole interest for the year was they would run that horse in country cups to win Country Racehorse of the Year,” he said.
The Colac Gold Cup is on February 26 and there is another Colac meeting on March 24.
The Camperdown Cup is on January 21 and is the club’s sole meeting for the season.
Terang races on January 1, January 23, March 13 and April 7, but will run its cup meeting in February in 2013.