21 things you don’t know about Melbourne Cup race caller Greg Miles

Brisbane,11 August, 2004. Wool Classer Sandy Kemp, gives the people at the Royal Brisbane Show (EKKA) a demo of his trade. There are around 38,000 Wool Classers in Australia. (AAP Image/Jason Weeding) NO ARCHIVING

Brisbane,11 August, 2004. Wool Classer Sandy Kemp, gives the people at the Royal Brisbane Show (EKKA) a demo of his trade. There are around 38,000 Wool Classers in Australia. (AAP Image/Jason Weeding) NO ARCHIVING

1. Greg Miles actually loves horses outside of the racing game. “I think they’re more than a betting medium. A whole lot of punters wouldn’t agree. Nowadays horses are just numbers on a television screen. I’m appreciative of what they do as athletes. They can have off days. They can have a headache.”

2. He gets to pat some of the winners from time to time. He managed a ride on Better Loosen Up, named Australia’s champion racehorse of 1991. “He was spelling at Bendigo and there was a race callers’ day there. So we drove out to the property and I jumped on him. Just bareback. I was just led around. His bow tendon was sticking out , all thick and calloused. He seemed happy enough to have me there.”

Michelle Payne’s gritty triumph over tragedy
All the glamour and celebrities from Melbourne Cup Day

3. Miles was born at Williamstown Hospital, Melbourne, in 1959. The midwife later attended to the birth of his own first child. His three children were born there. Greg attended schools in the Williamstown area: Altona East Primary School, and then the new Paisley High School, now Bayside College. It was built on an old coal dump. He left at Year 11 because he wanted to get into radio.

4. He is very much a Williamstown lad. He loves the pubs. In the 19th century there were more than a hundred. There are now probably less than 20. “My favorite was the Prince of Wales because it used to have Titanic nights. We’d have the same menu they had in 1912 and the band would play the same tunes. Then the floor would start shaking.”

5. Asked what he was good at as a schoolboy, he says: “Oh, clowning around, chasing girls. I was good at woodwork. I just wanted to be in radio. I thought it would be a hoot. I wanted to just sit there and play records and tell the time.”

Former Melbourne Cup winner Just a Dash, who won the race in 1981 and is now 28-years-old, is patted by well-wishers during a Melbourne Cup pre-race parade through the streets of central Melbourne, 31 October 2005. Australian star horse Makybe Diva is attempting to become the first horse to win the 3.75 million USD race three times in a row. As well as been given a heavy handicap, Makybe Diva needs to beat the best horses from Japan, South Africa, Great Britain and Australia. AFP PHOTO/William WEST

Champion gelding Just a Dash, pictured here in 2006, saluted in Miles’ first Melbourne Cup call in 1981. He was the oldest surviving Melbourne Cup winner until he died at the age of 35 in late 2012. Photo: AAP

6. Greg had no knowledge of horse racing but decided he wanted to call the races. He won the position of clerk in personnel at the ABC in Melbourne. “I had actually thought, I will go to the ABC and take (legendary ABC caller) Joe Brown’s place. The extraordinary thing is that it happened.”

7. Before that, he got a job on the ground floor of Bourke Street, Melbourne, Myer selling perfume. “I was 17. I suppose I liked working with women.”

8. He called his first Melbourne Cup in 1981, at the age of 22. Joe Brown was standing next to him. The Cup was won by Just A Dash. Greg had a slight lapse in the last straight. He thought Just A Dash was Belmura Lad, in similar colours. He did not say Belmura Lad was winning; he just mentioned its name once, and then quickly recovered. This year, while under medication for hay fever, Miles made a graver error during his call of the Caulfield Cup, during which he referred to winner Mongolian Khan as “Magnolian Khan”.

9. As a result of that very minor glitch in 1981, Greg plays a tape recording of that race to himself every Melbourne Cup morning, just as a last minute warning.


As a teenager, Miles sold perfume. Photo: Shutterstock

10. He met his wife Alison at a St Kilda, Melbourne, disco after attending the footy, in the late 1970s. The place was called Country Rock. “Not a very pleasant place. It was next to Les Girls.”

11. He got to call racing because he worked at it, and made tapes of himself calling. In the end the then chief of the ABC sports department in Melbourne, Peter Booth, sent him to call the Kilmore Cup in harness racing, north of Melbourne.

12. Of all radio activities, Greg chose racing because as a child he liked to listen to the top Victorian callers of the day, particularly Bill Collins (3DB), but also Joe Brown (ABC) and Bert Bryant (3UZ). “Bill was the greatest for theatrics, Joe was the most accurate. Joe could have them eating out of his hand with an inflection.”

13. Once asked if there was anything else he did, Greg replied that he was a “pretty basic bloke”. He was a happy family man, but worried his reply perhaps made him seem a bit one-dimensional.

Brisbane,11 August, 2004. Wool Classer Sandy Kemp, gives the people at the Royal Brisbane Show (EKKA) a demo of his trade. There are around 38,000 Wool Classers in Australia. (AAP Image/Jason Weeding) NO ARCHIVING

Miles’ father was a wool classer. His immediate family had no connection with horse racing. Photo: AAP

14. Greg’s father, Les Miles, was a wool classer. He used to bet with SP bookies at the Altona Central Hotel in Melbourne, but that was about the extent of his racing connection. Greg’s mother, Rita, was not interested in horses.

15. At one early stage, when Greg was calling the harness racing, he also got himself an extra job as on-course caller at the Wangaratta dogs, in northern Victoria. For a while, he managed to juggle the trots and the dogs, calling both, knocking off from the trots at 3 pm and driving to Wangaratta in his aqua 1969 Holden HT. Sometimes he would pull off the road at Kilmore on the way home and have a sleep.

16. He believes the greatest of all Melbourne Cup winners was Makybe Diva with her three glorious consecutive wins in 2003, 2004, 2005.

17. He thinks the greatest finish was by Kiwi in 1983, who came from second last to first in the last 500 metres.


Miles says identifying the jockey’s colours is the most important thing about race calling. Photo: Getty

18. Greg has his own method of dealing with the major drama of calling a Melbourne Cup. In the days leading up to the race, he looks at replays of all the horses in the Cup in their last few starts. He familiarises himself with their look, galloping style, and of course, their colours.

“This gives me a really good handle on the horses. It really is 99 per cent to do with colours. Then in the hour or so before the race, I go into what Joe Brown used to call a ‘cocoon of concentration’. No-one can penetrate that cocoon. We close the door. Everyone leaves me alone. I’m concentrating on the horses’ names, and the horses’ colours.

19. So does he still get nervous? “Yes I am nervous. I still get nervous. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t. I mean, this is just the most important three-and-a-half minutes of my year.”

20. He is particularly vigilant about the last 15 seconds. “There are people listening to me during that last 15 seconds who hear me only for that 15 seconds in the whole year. The Melbourne Cup is part of our being. It’s part of the fabric of being an Australian, even if you’re not interested in horse-racing.

“To be entrusted with bringing the Melbourne Cup to the Australian people is just such an honour.”

21. And is he relieved when it’s all over? “Oh, absolutely. But it’s only half way through the day. There are more to call. But at the end of that day, it’s marvellous to get home to a nice cold beer. And a glass of wine with dinner. I’m very exhausted. No, I don’t go celebrating with racing people. I just go home.”


Stay informed, daily
A FREE subscription to The New Daily arrives every morning and evening.
The New Daily is a trusted source of national news and information and is provided free for all Australians. Read our editorial charter
Copyright © 2024 The New Daily.
All rights reserved.