Queensland based caller Anthony Collins now widely in demand on NSW tracks

1 October 2014


His namesake is widely regarded as one of the greatest race callers of the past 50 years and that’s why Anthony Collins would be chuffed to be mentioned in the same breath as famous Victorian caller Bill Collins.


Hailing from the small country town of Warwick in South-East Queensland, Anthony Collins is fast making a name for himself in the race calling world.


The 28-year-old is prepared to travel far and wide to ply his trade – anywhere from Murwillumbah to Taree and the long trip Newcastle.


Collins’ grandfather raced greyhounds and his parents owned gallopers. But it was harness racing that first grabbed his attention and planted a seed of “passion” that continues to grow.


“I was about 16 when I called my first trial at Marburg (60km west of Brisbane) trots,” Collins said.


“I’d seen trots at the local show at Warwick and it all went from there, I thought it was a much better proposition for me to be involved with, so I went and inquired about it.”


Collins also “went through the process” of obtaining his trial driving licence and his driver’s licence.


He then obtained his trainer’s licence and enjoyed some success - mostly with Newcastle winner and Harold Park placegetter Torida Skippa.


 Les Kosklin also trained for him and he traded horses regularly with Lisa Thompson.


“I mucked around a bit with older horses that were at the end of their careers and that nobody could get going,” Collins said.


“I used to play the claiming game a bit, too.”


Collins started calling the gallops at Warwick when the regular race caller decided to retire. He also did the thoroughbreds at Dalby and the trots every Saturday afternoon at Redcliffe when it was a racing venue.


Collins was also the caller at Rocklea when it conducted harness meetings back in 2006 and would substitute for Craig Rail one meeting a month when he went to work in Victoria.


“On the other weekends I was driving my own horses,” Collins said. “


Not long after Rocklea finished racing the opportunity came with SKY Channel to call a gallops meeting at Ballina.


“I didn’t know I was under the microscope that day, but I got a call a few days later from Rod Gallegos to ask me if I was interested in doing a bit more for SKY and it’s gone on from there.”


Race calling commitments forced Collins to “hang up the colours” back in June.


These days he’s a full-time caller, who expects to cover about 70,000 kilometres anywhere from Murwillumbah on the Far North Coast to Taree and even Newcastle this financial year.


“Being on the road all the time you spread yourself too thin with the horses. But I still own one little horse,” he said.


Collins admires a number of other race callers but in a short time has adapted his own style.


“I used to listen to David Fowler. I think every young caller goes through a phase where they want to be the exact style of one particular caller,” he said.


“Very quickly I learned that wasn’t a good thing. Over the years, I’ve taken a little bit from a lot of callers - the different ways that they go about things.


“Now I think my style is very recognisable…it’s not like any of the other callers.”


And when he’s not driving long distances to call races, Collins dons another cap that also gets his head spinning.


“I’m actually the president of the Darling Downs Harness Racing Club,” he said.


“We used to be one of the premier race clubs in Queensland before they (government) started coming along and shutting tracks down, centralising the industry.


“I don’t mind saying it but, without me and my young approach, the club probably wouldn’t exist and our first race meeting back was at Warwick on the grass on Father’s Day.


“There’s eight or nine grass track meetings allocated throughout the state and they will be shared between Warwick, Deagon and Beaudesert.


“And I think it will work. It defies logic that they shut clubs down and then a few years later look for tracks to race on again.


“When they shut down our club we had something like $400,000 in the bank and a big portion of that was used on legal fees to stop them taking the money. The rest was donated to the local show society.


“There’s good support already from trainers and businesses up here. There are a lot of horses around.”


While he hopes the Darling Downs can regain its place as a harness racing stronghold, Collins would love his race calling career to head in the same direction as the late Bill Collins whose precision earned him the name of “The Accuate One.”


Bill Collins professionalism also helped opening up opportunities in the United States, England, South Africa, Hong Kong, Singapore and New Zealand for Australian callers and he is also honoured with the running of the Bill Collins Memorial Mile each year in Melbourne


“A lot of the callers say it’s a passion, not necessarily a job,” Anthony Collins said.


“It’s one helluva career, without a doubt. You do have your days when things are not ticking over but most of the time it’s a very fine career.


“I enjoy it. I wouldn’t swap it for the world.”