By Hans Ebert
Many of us want to be liked. It’s like that cringeworthy speech from Actress Sally Fields when, after winning the Oscar for “Norma Rae”, she blurted out to Hollywood, “You like me! You really like me!”
Sammy Hyland was incredibly well liked. What am I saying? Sammy Hyland is one of those few people in racing in Australia who you warm to immediately for a few key reasons- he’s paid his dues as a jockey, he knows what he’s on about, he’s always made his post race interviews on horseback entertaining. He’s not full of hidden agendas and bollocks and he’s fun. He’s not another empty brick in the wall. He’s not a racing dot con. What you see is what you get.
He was a star without threatening any egomaniacs at Racing.com, who decided to sack him yesterday. Why? That’s almost as baffling as why this racing delivery platform exists when it’s so vapid and disliked.
I first met Sammy Hyland through an introduction via my very good friend Johnny Didham, below with David Taggart, the magic man of Macau with five Jockey Premierships to his name when that racing jurisdiction actually had a pulse.
Their relationship was a bit like the Sorcerer and the Apprentice. Nothing got past Johnno. He knew who to trust even when a then-new Sammy Hyland went AWOL with our winning Triple Trio ticket in Hong Kong. It wasn’t much, but around a million pays for a few dinners at Nicollini’s and a damn good karaoke session.
So while we kept asking him if he trusted this new kid in town, Johnny Didham, a man of few words, just smiled that stupid smile we had known to expect after a few glasses of wine, and just nodded the affirmative. That was enough. To cut to the chase, Sammy had the winning ticket, he had no idea we had won and we had a damn decent night out.
Sammy, his wonderful missus and one of my favourite ladies in Nicole- how? Why?- their wedding, a surreal visit to Hong Kong where they stayed at the Didham-endorsed Mini hotel, and where on the same day, we met up with one Barry Pettit, an acquaintance who mentioned he had supposedly become a reality star in America, later that evening meeting up with the Waterhouses- The Robster was nodding off while Lady GaiGai kept jumping moving trains- whereas we’d always make the time to meet up when in Melbourne, is, as Max Presnell would say, a salt of the turf.
So, why was he, of all people, singled out for a stable change at Racing.com? Apparently, his replacement is Dean Pettit and with the big public relations coup supposedly being that Michelle Payne will host those post-race interviews on horseback during the upcoming Spring Carnival. Okay, business is business and one supposes that Racing.com had to do what they had to do. But did they?
Ask most nearly anyone, and the delivery platform is not just disliked, there are many questions as to why it’s still there on life support. The content, despite being the domain being ruled by that darling man and the Galloping Gourmet ShaneO Anderson, is drivel. A racing reporter cannot suddenly become a content writer. This is where some tough questions must be asked.
What’s the raison d’être of Racing.com? Surely it’s nothing more than a paean to try and make horse racing in Victoria appear more than Humpty Dumpty? It’s just public relations puffery before Mr Inevitable rings.
Why the HKJC grants this channel the broadcast rights to show its racing is baffling. This content might look better than being sandwiched amongst the dog’s breakfast that’s Sky and its hanging gardens of Babylon, but since when do hardcore racing viewers look for the aesthetic value of how a horse race is presented? How many even need a channel that offers no tangible benefits?
More on this another time as racing clubs tend to often neglect and underestimate the customer and miss the obvious in their hunger for turnover.
Bottom line: Sammy Hyland can do much better for himself than Racing.com. Personally, I would love to see him be part of the Hong Kong International Races.
More to the point, how many gripping onto their pay checks at Racing.com can go anywhere else?
This is a question that many fortunate enough to be in the employ of the racing industry can’t answer honestly. Why? Because no other industry would have them. Most are absolute crap.
For horse racing in Australia, Sammy Hyland is beyond irreplaceable. Build someone up and with a huge following only to bring them down and show them the door? Which genius made that decision?
You’ll have the last laugh, Samuel. Look forward to having a good laugh together. Racing.com is a House Of Cards and Game Of Thrones about to lose itself in everything that’s afflicting racing in Victoria. Everything happens for the right reasons at the right time. Like winning that Triple Trio in Hong Kong.