An end of a NZ Racing era with Peter Early calling fulltime after 48-years


Sunday afternoon marks an end of not only a remarkable greyhound era, but also of a New Zealand racing institution.


After nearly a half-century delivering greyhound race commentaries Peter Earley will hang up his binoculars a tick after 4.36pm.


The last 30-years also included hosting/broadcasting radio racing shows, always introduced by the signature White Rabbit tune.


It has been a trail blazing career, which is recognized by Sundays Manukau race names, spanning the rise of greyhound racing from localized sweepstake meetings through to todays international delivery of greyhound racing product.


It was a just over 48-years ago when Earley attended his first greyhound meeting at the then Auckland GRC race venue Kumeu. After listening to the commentator he stated, I can do a hell of a lot better than that.


Like most budding commentators a young Earley had been calling races to himself when living close to and lurking around stables at the Avondale racecourse.


The following week Earley fronted up at the races, delivered a couple of commentaries and the rest as they say is now history.


Greyhound totalizator racing followed and it was in 1981 when Earley pioneered New Zealand racing history when delivering the first race commentary on a private radio station when he commentated an AGRC meeting from Mt Smart Stadium on Radio Pacific.


Greyhound racing never had any outside coverage and turnover went through the roof with radio commentaries, recalled Earley who was running his own auctioneering business back then.


National greyhound commentaries followed with Earley travelling New Zealand delivering commentaries which led to Radio Pacific picking up racing coverage from the Radio New Zealand network in providing race commentaries for all three racing codes.


Jim Smith and Paddy ODonnell came across to Pacific from Radio NZ intent on setting up a national radio racing network. Their plans quickly materialized, aided by the national greyhound commentaries.


That success showed the other codes what could be achieved and they quickly came aboard, said Earley.   


The subsequent sale of the Radio Pacific frequencies to the NZ Racing Board led to the formation of Radio Trackside which Earley was a significant part of, hosting racing shows in conjunction with his commentary commitments, until the recent Covid-19 driven demise of the network.


Listeners came to expect the unexpected from Earleys commentaries and radio programs. It is fair to state that Earley was a somewhat controversial, no make that colourful broadcaster/commentator. No other person commanded the attention as frequently of the TAB HR department than Earley.


He held a reputation of asking the hard industry questions, shooting from the hip. Yeah I guess I had a love/hate relationship with the hierarchy over the years and I was stood down (from broadcasting) a few times.


He also explains why he selected the Peter Posa composed instrumental White Rabbit as his intro tune. Quite simple - White Rabbit tied in with the dogs which is appropriate. I had a good response to it and when I suggested changing it a few times the lines went crazy with listeners opposed to it (change), chuckled Earley.   


For a period Earley held the position of vice-president on the old NZ Greyhound Racing Association board. Yes, those were good years with the late Gordon Kingston in the chair. We changed things for the better during that time.


Earley has also been a hands on industry participant, training and breeding greyhounds for many years. Together with Lynn he trained greyhounds from Taupaki, which was followed by a stint training with the legendary Nancy Cobain and her husband Ivan in Manaia (Taranaki).


They trained Spick And Span, which included Donna Logan and Debbie Healey in the ownership, to win a Wellington Cup, while they also supervised the preparation for the 1987 Duke of Edinburgh Silver Collar winner Super Bet.


From there it was back up north where Earley trained at a couple of Pokeno locations. Club Edition was one of the first Australian imports who entered their kennel and who was to become a leading sire leaving Group race winners.


This month was scheduled to be the 50th edition of the prestigious Duke Of Edinburgh Silver Collar a race that was to be Earleys 48th call (he witnessed the first two). Yes, its disappointing not getting to 50 Silver Collar calls, however now is the time to call it quits. The Collar has always been the race that you lift for it is a wonderful, wonderful event, enthused Earley.


He rates the dual Silver Collar winner Tivoli Tom (1992 & 1994) as one of the best greyhounds he has commentated. Tivoli Tom was a standout stayer, while the Collar win by Swift Fantasy (2010) was outstanding, especially with all the hype around her. The Manukau 527m track record holder and Auckland Cup winner Winsome Ashley (29.77s) was an extremely smart bitch, he added.


Earley also went back in time when recalling Laurel Streak as an extra smart greyhound. The Ernie Holmes trained chaser was labelled as the Mt Smart Express such was his complete domination of his 578m rivals back then. Upon his retirement Earley stood Laurel Streak at stud.    


There was no hesitation when asked to rate the best trainers who he has seen throughout his career, nominating a pair of respected conditioners who are members of the GRNZ Hall of Fame. Without question I consider Nancy Cobain and Ray Adcock as the best trainers Ive seen.


Over the years Peter Earley developed a strong rapport with numerous industry figures from all three racing codes. There are many ready good people involved in racing. I really valued the time and opportunities Ive enjoyed not only interviewing them, but also being associated with them.


It has been a fantastic journey all-the-way through, until 2020 when the ship sunk, summarized Peter Earley in his known straight shooting style.


On Sunday the Auckland GRC proudly acknowledges the absolute valued 48-year contribution that Peter Earley has made to greyhound racing with the running of the Peter Earley Classic (race 12). The tidy field drawn to contest it is an appropriate line-up to bring down the curtain on Peter Earleys amazing 48-year career.


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