Caption: Young NSW race caller Dan Missen behind the binoculars.
By GARY CLARK
SCHOOL was never about education but just getting to the track on weekends and calling the races for bush teenager, known as “Mr Natural” – Dan Missen.
As a seven-year-old, Dan had his cubby house in his bedroom, which he made into a broadcasting box, and called races to himself. It was the forerunner to his future.
The racing bloodlines in the Missen family tree go right back to his great-grandfather, Bill who trained greyhounds back in the 1930 and ’40s, before his grandfather on his Dad’s side owned horses.
Bill had a top chaser in 1936, Royal Grand who had 43 starts for 23 wins and 12 placings before he sold the dog for 100 pounds and won five of his next seven including Harold Park.
While Dan’s uncle, Darren was involved in a rare triple dead-heat at a Tamworth meeting back in December 1986.
Dan’s Mum, Joy, decided to train greyhounds back in 2005 and won with her first dog, Space Orbit. He was kept as a pet by the family until he passed away at the age of 15.
Joy’s seven wins with Polly’s Delight were among her 43 winners in her seven years as a trainer.
Dan’s father, Tony, was a jockey for 15 years before his weight saw him hang up the saddle. Tony won the 1981 Port Macquarie Cup on Kenya and a double as a 17-year-old in 1979 at a picnic race meeting.
Tony then went into harness racing as a trainer/driver in the Tamworth area. He has seven horses in work and has had success with Busy Foot and So Ho Eros.
It hasn’t been all that easy in the gig as he suffered a race fall at Tamworth but was not seriously injured.
In 2012 Joy and Tony finally decided to get married.
“They had been together for over 15 years and I was the MC at the wedding, which did feel a little strange them being my parents,” Dan said.
Born and bred in Tamworth, Dan left school at the age of 16 and did a two-year apprenticeship as a chef. He is now fully qualified, but his real love was getting behind that microphone at the track.
“While I was doing my apprenticeship I was calling the non-TAB meetings at Gunnedah, Armidale and Coonabaraban,” he said.
After those days in his makeshift caller’s box in his bedroom, in August 2009 Dan called his first race meeting at Tamworth.
“I remember it well,” he said. “Chloe Tanga won the race and broke the track record. It was a great way to start.”
Most race callers get their chance usually when aged about 19, but Dan was given a rare opportunity when aged just 11.
Dan called his first meeting on Boxing Day at the Quirindi gallops barrier trial meeting.
With his father involved in harness racing, Dan – squeaky voice and all – later called the Tamworth trotting trials. He also did the Inverell and Narrabri trials.
So this young voice was being heard all around the north-west region of NSW.
Dan’s first official harness meeting came in December 2015 at Inverell.
His breakthrough in race calling on radio was for local station 88.9FM at the remarkable age of just 16.
He has developed over the years in radio and is an on-air presenter.
He is also the station’s operations manager and prides himself on his knowledge of music.
“I know just about every song and artist,” he said.
After this early initiation into racing behind the binoculars, his big breakthrough came recently.
SKY’s Dan Russ, who also started his racecalling career in Gunnedah, had been sharing the calling duties there with Dan at non-TAB meetings before he took by himself over when Gunnedah went full-time TAB.
But late last year Dan moved to Newcastle opening up the opportunity for a racecaller at Gunnedah. Local harness racecaller Greg Kachel also had retired.
“I received a call from Kevin Wolfe, the broadcast director at NSW Sky Sports Radio, and he asked if I would like to call the Gunnedah greyhound meetings for SKY then also the Tamworth trot meetings,” Dan said.
“I had sent a couple of demo videos into SKY and they said they would refer to them if they needed someone down the track.”
Dan’s skills have spread even further as he has been the judge at Maitland, Gosford and Wentworth Park over the past year.
Travelling is not an issue for Dan, in fact, last month he judged the Gosford meeting on a Friday night, which concluded at 11pm then drove four hours home. The next morning he was in the car and a three-hour drive to call the Moree greyhound meeting.
Dan has taken ownership of two of his father’s horses and in fact called one of his father’s winners My Kinda Justice recently. He is yet to own a greyhound but says that may not be far away.
He has a partner of 12 months, Jacinta, whom he met at a local media trivia night. Jacinta worked as journalist at one of the biggest NSW country newspapers, the Northern Daily Leader, but is now with the Inverell Times.
Dan has the perfect attitude to be successful as a racecaller.
There is no ego about this young bloke, he doesn’t bet and listens to advice – all the qualities of a mature head on young shoulders.
It has been a very early start for Dan and one that has had so many openings in his first decade.
He has a long future at SKY and one day we will hear him calling all three codes on the national airwaves.