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By Mike Moon

Horse racing correspondent

Voices of racing lured by siren song of the southern seas

Cape Racing scoops up two of the country’s top race callers.

It is all-change in the South African commentating and broadcasting landscape.

World-class race caller Alistair Cohen is leaving Joburg to become the head of broadcasting for Cape Racing. And promising young Highveld caller and presenter Brandon Bailey is also heading south to join Cohen’s new team.

The serious illness of stalwart presenter Lyle Cooper leaves the upcountry 4Racing broadcasting ranks a trifle denuded and unfamiliar – especially after the erstwhile lamented exits of Julie Alexander and Dave Mollett.

In the wake of Cohen’s relocation, Jehan Malherbe, the veteran Cape race caller and bloodstock fundi has decided to hang up his mic, so to speak.

And that comes on top of the lengthy, injury-enforced layoff of renowned (and underrated) commentator Rouvaun Smit.

Cohen and Bailey are part of a general trend of movement to the southern tip as a result of a revitalisation of the game in the Mother City – driven by investment banker/owner Greg Borz and sports book company Hollywoodbets.

For example, Johan Janse van Vuuren and Adam Azzie are the latest in a growing trickle of Highveld and KwaZulu-Natal trainers to open satellite yards in Cape Town in order to try to take advantage of alluring incentives for out-of-province stables.

‘Perfect fit’

On Cohen’s appointment, Justin Vermaak, Cape Racing’s racing and bloodstock executive, said: “We are delighted to have secured Alistair’s services… he is very talented, both as a commentator and a presenter, popular with racing fans and within the racing community. He fits perfectly with our long-term plan to make racing in the Western Cape a truly world-class experience.”

Said Cohen: “My brief is to direct and shape Cape Racing’s overall broadcasting content and product into world-class quality. I am excited to be working closely with Justin and team, all people who are driven, committed and hold themselves to the highest standards.”

Cohen’s career followed a swift upward trajectory after he joined Phumelela as a trainee race caller in 2010. He progressed to senior commentator and, in 2021 landed himself the sought-after position of senior caller in Dubai, where he spent just short of two seasons, calling the 2021 Dubai World Cup and other high-profile Dubai Carnival features, before returning to South Africa as a freelancer.

Cohen said that he owed a debt of gratitude to leading owner-breeder Mary Slack for supporting his career.

“If it weren’t for Mary who stepped in to give our racing industry a lifeline, Hollywoodbets and Greg wouldn’t have been in a position to rescue Cape Racing, and the landscape would have been different,” he said.

Bailey echoed Cohen: “I am so grateful for this opportunity of a lifetime. I could not believe my eyes when I recently toured Hollywoodbets Kenilworth. What is taking place at this property is nothing short of mind-blowing. When all is said and done, this racecourse will be one of the top racecourses in the world, and I need to pinch myself that I am now part of this journey.”

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