Benson admits he struggled calling the dogs early on

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By PAUL DOLAN

MOST Australians are spending more time at home presently, for obvious reasons.

I don’t sit glued to the television all day but must own up to watching a lot more Youtube than I have ever done.

Youtube is a great way to catch up on some racing history. There are replays of races that are vintage stuff and should never be lost.

I particularly enjoy listening to the various racecallers who were assigned big races to call. One such caller is Ray Benson. He is aged 80 and lives in retirement in Melbourne with his partner Marjorie.

Benson was a household name in racing in Victoria in the 1960s and 70s where he called the three codes of racing alongside the legendary Bill Collins.

“Calling greyhounds wasn’t actually my choice,” Benson recalls.

“I was told by radio station management that I had to do them and that was that.

“I struggled with them for a while, it’s different to calling thoroughbred and harness races.

“Ray Timms, a trainer who had a very good dog named Master Jolly, would do the tips for me, he had much more knowledge than I did of the form of greyhounds. But overall I did enjoy calling the dogs.”

Calling at Sandown wasn’t easy for a new hand such as Benson.

“If you can picture one of those small garden sheds you buy from Bunnings or Stratco and take home on the back of a ute, we called from something very similar on the roof of the old Sandown grandstand,” he said.

“We had to walk across the roof to get to the box. Maurie and Wayne Kirby called from another such box a little further along the roof.

“Calling Monday night racing at Olympic Park was a huge buzz. Thousands of people, seventy or more bookmakers, an amazing atmosphere.”

Temlee and Lizrene are Benson’s top picks as the best he called.

“I became very friendly with Peter McGuinness who owned Lizrene. Sadly Peter has passed away. The Sandown club invites Peter’s widow Roma to an annual reunion night at Sandown which I enjoy attending too. But that night hasn’t happened since Covid.”

Benson’s outlook on Covid is typical of his humble and caring nature.

“We love holidaying at the Gold Coast but have had to cancel going there three times,” he said.

“That’s nothing really. I am concerned about the effect the prolonged lockdown here in Melbourne is having on young people, including our grandkids.

“They need to be out and about and going to school. They shouldn’t be cooped up inside.”

Meanwhile, it’s Youtube time!

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