Graeme White has worn many caps in the harness and thoroughbred racing industries during a stellar 40-year career that will be celebrated at Queanbeyan on Tuesday.
The Sky Racing personality, who covers all things thoroughbred racing in the Southern Districts and South East of NSW, started as a racing journalist in Wagga.
A bright kid with a passion for all things racing would try his hand at trackwork riding, harness driving, race club administration, and jockey management, among other things, with his journey taking him all over the place.
“The 40 years has flown,” White told NSW Country and Picnic Racing.
“I just love what I do and have done in the past. As they say, ‘Time flies when you’re having fun’, and if you love your job like I do, it becomes such a big and important part of your life. I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.”
White’s interest in racing was fostered from an early age, and by the time he reached year 11, he was working for the leading newspaper in the Riverina and cutting his teeth under the guidance of some exceptional mentors.
“We had to write an assignment in Year 10 at St Michael’s Regional High (School) in Wagga,” he explained when asked how he found his way into the industry.
“My assignment was on horse racing, and I gained a score of 100 per cent.
“My English teacher to this day says he has never given 100 per cent in his life so that sort of prompted me to want to write racing stories from a young age.
“I always had my head in newspapers and form guides and came from a harness racing family.
“I started at The Daily Advertiser in Wagga when I had the job secured in Year 11. The Editor was Graham Gorrel, and he gave me an opportunity, and the legendary Ted Ryder was the Sports Editor.
“I learned that hard work and attention to detail can take you a long way. I covered harness racing and (thoroughbred) racing to start with, then branched into every other sport.”
White flew through his cadetship with flying colours, boasting a natural flair for the job.
“It gave me a great base, and at the same time, I covered a range of other sports, which gave me a broad understanding of all sports,” he said.
Following two decades of reporting in Wagga, White needed a change, which led him down the path to becoming the television personality he is today.
“After some 20 years at the paper, I thought it was time for a change, and with the pending sale of The Daily Advertiser from family-owned to company-owned, I thought it was the right time,” White said.
“I had done everything I had wanted to, covering a range of national events when they were in Wagga.
“I was contacted by WIN Television to do a weekly tipping segment, and from there, Sky Racing contacted me about doing on-course work for them in a far different role to what it is now.
“I started working at WIN TV doing the sport and as acting chief of staff and also doing my role at Sky.”
Then, out of the blue, a very different role popped up, and White was soon in charge of the revolutionary Riverina Paceway, which he named.
At the same time, he juggled that role with managing some of the best jockeys in the Riverina.
“I was contacted about a new harness racing complex being built in Wagga and if I was interested in being the first club Chief Executive,” White said.
“I put in for the job and was successful. Being part of seeing a new multi-million-dollar facility being built in Wagga is a career highlight.
“I did that job for ten years, of which two were at the current site.
“The opening meeting, some 3000 people attended, and I was very proud of that day.
“I was also doing jockey management and looked after the rides for Nick Souquet, Richard Bensley, Brodie Loy, and Billy Owen and probably the highlight was being asked to start doing it by my good friend Andrew Bloomfield.
“He won the SDRA premiership in the first year we were together after being runner-up a few times.”
As expected, White has laid his eyes on many superstars of the sport, and he touched on some of those he watched race in the region or covered throughout his years as a journalist and commentator.
“The best horse I saw race at Wagga was Takeover Target, who won his second career start at the cup carnival and went on to greatness,” White said.
“I remember tipping him in my top three and looked up the other tipsters that night, and only one other put him in their top three; seems mad now.
“A horse I loved writing about was Green Ridge. He was grey and raced from about three until he was about 13. He won some 43 races and was a crowd-pleaser.
“There have been many great jockeys, trainers, and drivers, but I would have to mention the late, great Richard Freyer, who trained over 110 winners in one season when there wasn’t the racing that there are these days.
“I was good mates with Richard, and he died too soon. I remember Brett Cavanough starting off with two horses at Tocumwal, and look at him now.
“Old Carvalin from Gundagai was another marvel, and for the pacer, there have been so many, but Frith was freakish.”
White has won several media awards, with his most significant professional achievement being when he won the Racing Story of the Year award, which sent him on a trip to New Zealand.
At the same time, he’s made many friends due to his trusted and respected voice while travelling over 100,000km a year.
Additionally, his work in front of the computer and the camera has made him a popular commentator amongst trainers, jockeys, punters, and those in the racing industry.
“The highs, there are so many to mention,” White said when asked what moments stood tall during his career.
“Winning the awards is always nice, but just to be acknowledged by your peers for doing a good job is really all you need.
“You just strive to do your best and put yourself in the seat of the viewers for what I do with Sky and let them know what they would like to hear; keep it interesting and informative and be precise… And tip plenty of winners.”
While he’s an avid harness and thoroughbred owner who, among his favourite meetings, loves attending the Wagga and Albury Cups, Gundagai’s Snake Gully Cup, Canberra’s Black Opal Stakes, and the Sapphire Coast Carnival, there are still the difficult moments.
His best friend, Don “Duck” Terry, ended up in a wheelchair after a race call, and he hates seeing jockeys and horses injured.
“You just shut your eyes and pray for the best when there is a fall,” White said.
Still, he has a job to do, and in his current role, White can be seen or heard on Sky Racing most days, offering punters informative tips, mounting yard mail, and some terrific back stories to trainers, jockeys, and horses.
“The Sky role takes me all over southern country NSW,” White said.
“I attend, on average, two to three meetings per week. There is all the lead-up work with form, watching race replays, analysing the best chances, then on race day, it’s live action for about seven hours.
“I absolutely love the role and can’t see myself doing anything else.
“There are a lot of associated functions that you are invited to, and it’s nice to have that bond with the race clubs and participants.”
When asked if he would consider changing jobs again before retirement, the 56-year-old quickly highlighted that he doesn’t plan to go anywhere.
“In another ten years, I see myself doing exactly the same thing and ready to embrace any changes,” White said.
“The industry is at its peak and can only continue to grow. The prize money is huge, and I can only see it growing.
“The Kosciusko and the Country Championships have been great for country racing.”
Readers and fans of the Sky Racing personality can tune into the Queanbeyan meeting on Tuesday with White set to keep punters up-to-date on all things racing.