New Zealand racing is losing one of its rarest talents, with leading commentator Mark McNamara returning home to his native Australia.
The voice of predominantly Canterbury racing will call his last meeting in this country at Addington on August 22 before returning home to Australia for family reasons.
McNamara has been snapped up by leading Australian racing channel Sky and will commentate and present for them starting in September.
“I’ll be sad to go but I’m also looking forward to the new challenge,” says McNamara.
“I’m going home to be closer to family, so it is a personal decision, but on a professional level, I am thrilled to have a role with Sky and looking forward to seeing where that takes me.”
McNamara has been commentating in New Zealand for 10 years and the now 40-year-old quickly became a favourite with racing fans.
While he has the most obvious and important of commentating skills, accuracy, a strong voice and an understanding of racing, his quirkiness helped make racing interesting.
McNamara also developed strong ties with both the thoroughbred and standardbred industries, enabling him to add personal touches to his commentaries.
“I have loved it here and have worked with so many good people so I really want to thank them,” says McNamara.
“And whoever gets the role, I wish them the best, because it is a real privilege.”
McNamara is adept at calling either equine code – his Te Akau Shark commentary in the Couplands Mile this season added fun, hype and a narrative to what was a seemingly obvious odds-on winner.
But it was when calling harness racing that he was world class, and when feeling at home at Addington, he produced some of his most famous quips.
“And as much as I have loved Riccarton and so many of the other tracks I have been lucky enough to call at, Addington has been my home track, so I’m happy my last night calling here will be there on the 22nd [of August].”
While McNamara will be missed from the calling ranks, Canterbury racing at least has a commentator capable of stepping into McNamara’s shoes in Matt Cross.
Trackside, now run by RITA, will advertise the role but it will be a huge surprise if Cross doesn’t secure the role as main Canterbury commentator.
While young, he has developed into a very professional broadcaster, and as a local, has enormous knowledge of the industry in the region.
To that extent, the racing industry may have dodged a bullet, as Cross was nearly lost to an overseas job last year and finding a similarly-qualified replacement for McNamara would have been incredibly difficult.
Cross would be a deserved caller of the New Zealand Trotting Cup, which sits alongside the Vodafone Derby at Ellerslie as New Zealand’s greatest horse race.
McNamara’s move is not the only shift in the South Island commentating ranks, with Jason Teaz stepping away from his full-time job as commentator in Otago and surrounding regions to work on a contract basis.
That will see veteran caller Dave McDonald add the Forbury Park greyhounds to his extensive duties in the short-term while former Victorian commentator Craig Rail, who recently moved to New Zealand, will call Forbury Park harness and possibly other meetings in the region as a contractor.