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23rd October 2021 Wincanton

Jump jockey Johnny Burke will switch the thrills of the saddle for a completely different starring role tomorrow (Sunday 24th October) when he takes to the commentary booth to call the Fitzdares Racing Welfare Charity Race before racing at Wincanton.

It may seem like a dramatic switch for a man who is due to take two rides on the card itself, but this is not the first time that the 25 year old has picked up the microphone.

Burke is something of a staple in the weighing room these days, having had nearly 1,800 rides over the last five years, and he explained that raceday commentary is something that he has dabbled in since childhood.

He said: “It’s something that I’ve done quite a bit of. I always did it as a kid growing up and stuff and I mentioned it to Richard Hoiles, who’s very kindly organised for me to do the charity race and two pony races before racing.

“I started out doing pony races back home – I’d ride in the horse races and commentate on the pony races. I then got into doing a few point to point races through Richard Pugh and I was lucky enough when I got injured back home to be invited to commentate on a bumper race at the Punchestown Festival, so it’s something I dabble in a bit and it’s something I enjoy.

“When I was growing up my dad trained a few for Paul Barber so I’d be watching his colours on the television and then going out and re-enacting the races. I’ve just carried that on whenever I’ve had the opportunity really and it’s just worked out really well.

“I wasn’t very good at school to be honest, but if you give me 20 runners to memorise in five minutes or so I’d be able to do it, so it must be a photographic memory kind of thing!”

Asked about his commentary style, Burke added: “I’d say I’m quite relaxed and I try to model myself on Dessie Scahill and Jerry Hannon, but I’m not sure whether I’ll do a Roaring Bull style call!

“I’m only 25 and I hope I’ve got many years of riding left but you do have to think about the next role, so I may as well start now.”

The Charity Race is being run in support of Racing Welfare, with 12 people from across racing moving to the other side of the rails.

One of those riders is former Premier League footballer Jay Tabb and Burke added that he was pleased to see him taking part.

He said: “I do actually know Jay and have met him a few times through Cieran Gethings so it was quite funny when I saw I’d be commentating on him riding in it.

“I’m not sure whether he knows yet! I’ve not seen him for a while so I imagine he’ll be picking my brain on Sunday and it’ll be nice to see everyone on the day.

“It’s for a great cause too in Racing Welfare. They do great work for injured jockeys and they work in all aspects so it’s great to be a part of things. Hopefully, a professional jockey commentating can add a little bit more publicity to it.”


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