VETERAN racecaller Brian (Spike) Baldwin’s introduction to the Barraba racetrack was back in 1946 as a 10-year-old.
“A horse called Ralph, owned by W. and A.R. McKid won the cup,” Baldwin (OAM) said with his infectious smile.
“And a horse called Calibre, owned by the late G W Bucknell. I noticed it was pigeon-toed, so asked my dad who was a top horseman, bush vet and very accomplished campdrafter. He told me that pigeon-toed horses never fall.
“Calibre won the flying handicap that day.”
Baldwin, well-known throughout the north-west for his stock and station-auctioneering business in Inverell, started calling the Barraba races back in the early 1970s.
“The late Des King called them but he got sick so I filled in for a couple of years until he returned, then I started calling again about the early 1980s.”
Baldwin, who can rattle off horse breeding at the drop of a hat – an attribute he inherited from his dad Laurie – also recalled his most notable race calls.
“I have a great memory of a little black mare called Lady Bendina, trained here by Trevor Smith for the Capel-Spencer family.
“She won the maiden in her very first start and clocked faster time than they did in the flying. She went on to win in Sydney.
“Another is a flying horse called I’m An Individual (also a dual Sydney winner), trained by Stan Johnson.
“It was so dusty you couldn’t see the field at all.
“I’m An Individual dropped right out of the race but flew home through the dust to win.”
Baldwin has called races on “probably 40 different tracks” during his career – “even one at Bogan Gate”.
“I was there 1963 Doncaster Day when their usual caller tripped coming down from the stand and ended up in hospital.”
Another boyhood memory is of the facilities at Barraba being painted white on green – “or green on white as they are today. They were the Bucknell family racing colours”.
Baldwin spent six years in the president’s chair at Inverell Jockey Club so knows the make-up of a good club.
“A president must be a racing man, must be affable and have good people skills, make everyone welcome so they want to come back.
“Barraba has that in Leon Cummins.”
“I love going to Barraba.
“It’s really like going home, as I’m an old Manilla boy. A time to catch up with old mates,” the 77-year-old said.