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Richard Pugh on the art of horse racing commentary

Jake O'Donnell
Jake O'Donnell

08:50 11 Oct 2019


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Racing commentator and owner of Irish point-to-point racing website p2p.ie, Richard Pugh, joined Friday Night Racing this week to discuss his role in the industry. 

While Pugh has held many roles within the Irish racing industry, it was the art and difficulty of commentary that was of most interest to Ger Gilroy and John Duggan on Friday Night Racing.

Recalling his first time behind the microphone aged 20, Pugh explained that he still has the same love for the notoriously difficult art over two decades later.

"If you have 15, or 20, or 25 horses and you have that live element to it, it's a real buzz. It's a real rush and then you're trying to work them out as they are going around – it's great.

Commenting on the apparent difficulty of the task, Duggan quipped that even with his years of broadcasting and love for racing he didn't know how Pugh could call a sport that fast with such few distinctions between some of the participants.

Acknowledging that telling horses apart can be difficult especially when they have the same owners and wear the same colours, Pugh said that the real key to the art is in the describing.

"The real thing is saying what is relevant to the punter, spotting which horse is going well. Is a rider sitting holding on to nothing or is he ready to pounce?"

Remembering his commentary during Ruby Walsh's final race, Pugh noted that his only aim is for his commentary to match the occasion.

"We have so many commentaries and they fit the occasion and that is what you are trying to achieve, but Ruby was a funny one.

"Because he went by the line, and no one knew he was retiring, and he goes by the line and I say: 'And Kenboy wins!' but he did this [waving], not this [clenching his fist].

"And every rider does this [the clenched fist]. And I just said and Ruby Walsh waves. Now I couldn't say because he might be retiring because who knows, but you just acknowledge and Ruby Walsh waves. And now you look back and you say he waved because it was goodbye.

"So, I just acknowledged it to say there is something different here."

On the topic of his favourite race to call, Pugh said it was the Irish Grand National "by a country mile because there's so much happening."

"In most races, you are thinking what will I say, in that one you are thinking which one to say and what is the most relevant," he said.

Our racing coverage is brought to you in association with Horse Racing Ireland. #EveryRacingMoment


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