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  • Writer's pictureJo O'Neill

An Interview with Charlie Parkin - Race Day Presenter

Updated: Dec 9, 2020

Having called announcements for years, Charlie Parkin has become the voice of many racecourses, most notably Cheltenham. He is also seen as the “best turned out” man to many stable staff – not purely due to his dapper suits, but also due to the many of these awards he helps to hand out in the paddock. A lifelong racing fan, Charlie has also made one of his favourite sports into his profession.

Charlie Parking (middle)

Photo Credit: Sarah Matthews

How did you get into race day presenting?

Having graduated from Huddersfield Polytechnic with a degree in Business Studies, I wrote to selected racecourses and racing bodies with the hope of getting into racecourse management. I was offered an interview at the Racing Information Bureau (the commercial wing of the Racecourse Association) and moved to Ascot in January 1985 to train as a Public Relations Officer. After a couple of years working at all the courses from Newton Abbot in the west to Lingfield Park in the east, I relocated back to the Midlands to work at several courses here and made Worcester my home. Under a cost-cutting exercise two or three years later, the RCA and Racetech merged the jobs of Public Relations Officers and Racecourse Announcers to create Raceday Presenters – six of us countrywide with about ten courses each. Then more cost-cutting at the RCA led to us all being made redundant, but instantly being re-employed by the same courses we were working for but on a self-employed basis.

In a nutshell, what does your job entail?

Basically, it is to liaise with the racecourse management regarding the day’s events and in particular sponsors of races; to assist sponsors with the judging and presenting of best turned-out horse awards prior to races and to MC the presentations of trophies to winning connections post-race. In addition, I to provide racegoers with information regarding withdrawals, non-runners, the going, stewards’ enquiries, jockey changes, colour changes and weight changes on behalf of the BHA. It is also to call individuals (usually trainers or their representatives) to the Weighing Room and to announce the starting prices and Tote returns.

Which racecourses have you worked at?

To save space, it’s probably easier to mention those for whom I have not worked – none of the Scottish courses, neither Newcastle, Carlisle, Redcar, Sedgefield, Catterick, Ripon, Wetherby, York, Beverley nor Chelmsford.

Which is your favourite racecourse?

Jumps – Cheltenham; Flat – Salisbury.

Please describe your typical race day:

I always arrive at a course three hours before racing, do my homework on the sponsors and make my notes. My time is spent between the Broadcast Office in the Weighing Room, the Paddock and the Winners Enclosure. 45 minutes before the first race, announcements begin – the welcome, going report, Tote details, non-runners, jockey changes and the framing of the first race, plus any particular announcements from the racecourse management about things that may be going on during the afternoon. Repeat the non-runners, jockey changes and going, and then to the parade ring to meet the race sponsors and judge the BTO. Oversee the presentation of the award and then to the weighing Room to announce the winner’s name. Watch the race, announce the SPs and Tote returns and then head to the Winner’s Enclosure to contact the winning connections and learn who will be receiving the trophies, MC the presentations and then back to the Weighing Room to repeat the process for the remaining races.

What aspect of racing has been perfected?

Not everything by a long way, but probably the most pleasing is the advances made in medical and safety measures for jockeys and for the welfare of horses.

Where could improvements still be made?

I have been ‘campaigning’ for years for an audible sound (similar to the bing-bong used to announce a Stewards’ Enquiry) to accompany the ‘Weighed-In’ announcement. Probably this is the most important industry announcement that is made (to help the betting money turn over) - and yet it is often lost with everything else that is going on.

Have the themed race days (ladies’ days, Irish music nights, family fun days, concerts, etc) broadened the appeal of racing?

Without a doubt they have, but being somewhat old-fashioned and certainly cynical, I do prefer courses that concentrate on the quality of racing and prize money above gimmicks and sideshows.

Who do you admire in racing?

Plenty of people both now and over the years, but at the top is Sir Anthony McCoy.

Which was your favourite racehorse(s)?

I don’t have one, but rather have favourite races. So, Troy’s amazing win in the 1979 ‘toilet roll’ Derby and Baron Blakeney and (whipless) Paul Leach giving Martin Pipe his first Festival Winner in the 1981 Triumph Hurdle. And for monetary reasons, For Auction at 40-1 in the 1982 Champion Hurdle and Hallo Dandy and Neil Doughty leaping to victory in the 1984 Grand National at 13-1.

Has any race day stood out above all the others and why?

The scenes after Dawn Run’s success in the 1986 Cheltenham Gold Cup were something very special.

Have you ever had any involvement in racehorse ownership?

I was the manager of Cheltenham Racing Ltd (Cheltenham Racecourse’s racehorse ownership group) from 1995 until it ended a few years ago. I have since managed the Cheltenham Racing Club (made-up of existing CRL members) whose horses are trained by Sophie Leech.

What are your hobbies?

Being a season ticket holder at Elland Road means much of my time is spent on the road to and from Leeds. I love a game of Backgammon (I was once rated 52nd in the country), enjoy gardening, growing stuff and cooking. I am addicted to TV and Gran Turismo on the PlayStation!

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