Former jockey and assistant-trainer Scott Bailey turns racing presenter

Scott Bailey at his first day at the office interviewing jockey Wong Chin Chuen.

By Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club

After swapping boots and saddles with binoculars and surcingles nine years ago, Scott Bailey has taken the plunge into a second major career switch, but still well within the racing industry, this time with a microphone and a camera as his new tools of the trade.

A former jockey in his native Adelaide around a decade ago, Bailey recently left his Kranji job as assistant-trainer to Shane Baertschiger to join the Singapore Turf Club’s Broadcast team as their new racing presenter from Monday.

The media position has been left vacant since racecallers-cum-presenters Luke Marlow and Daniel Cobby returned to Australia at the height of last year’s pandemic lockdown. The Club’s No 1 racing commentator Nicholas Child had all along been holding the fort by enlisting the help of part-timers, fellow Chinese-speaking presenter Raymond Wong, or sometimes, just going solo.

Relief is finally on the way for the British presenter from this week onwards, but it was also a manna from heaven that has fallen onto Bailey’s lap at the right time.

“COVID-19 hit many people in many ways. It was time for me to move to an area I always had an interest in since I was a jockey – media,” said Bailey.

“I’ve always been interested in stats, history in any sports, especially racing. It’s something I had at the back of my mind I could do when I leave the stables one day.

“I even did some TV work once at the Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sales and really enjoyed it. I flew up for the gig back in 2012, a few months before I came to Singapore.

“I’m very thankful to the Club for the opportunity, and I’m very keen to help in any way I can in my new job.”

Jumping on the other side of the fence to speak in front of cameras has never seemed like a daunting task to Bailey. Often featured in both pre-race and post-race TV interviews during his nine years at the Baertschiger yard, the 33-year-old Australian has always looked a natural in front of a camera, clear and crisp with his insightful nuggets on his horses.

The former runner-up in the 2009 South Australian apprentice jockey premiership said it was precisely his time in the saddle and on the ground that will put him in good stead for his new media role, not to mention his familiarity with all the Kranji trainers and jockeys, and the local system.

“Having ridden horses and been involved with their preparation, I know what trainers are aiming at,” he said.

“Going through a race, I know what jockeys are thinking. I’ll have a bit of an idea what they could have done better, horses can’t be unlucky all the time.

“Obviously, I’ve not done any studio recording or ‘live’ TV yet. I guess it’s a new challenge, but I’m more excited than anything to have a go and learn along the way.

“Learning the ropes from Nick is a big help. Yesterday was my first day and it was mostly an orientation day, but this morning, he threw me in at the deep end interviewing trainers and jockeys after the barrier trials.

“I’m also quite keen to have a go at race calling eventually. I know it’s not easy, but I’ve already been practising a fair bit – in my mind, mostly!”

King’s Command (Vlad Duric) was the last winner Scott Bailey led in on April 24.

Speaking of practice, Singapore racing TV viewers would already have caught snippets of Bailey at a dress rehearsal on Sunday.

While he had not officially started his job, he helped out as co-host with Child, even sinking his teeth into one of his main upcoming raceday tasks – commenting in situ the physical condition of the runners at a place where he used to lead horses around in a turquoise polo tee not too long ago (April 24 was his last raceday and King’s Command, the last-race winner was the last he helped saddle) – the paddock.

Again, Bailey, who still cuts a trim figure that would draw the envy of a few jockeys, especially those at the top end of the scale, did a sterling job with his expert analysis. He may still not be the finished article yet, but he did tick a few boxes when it came to applying his new TV skills, no doubt just picked up on the job at his first training day eg good in sync coordination with his anchormen, effective use of intonation, and even the de rigueur eye contact with the camera!

It’s quite apparent from the way Bailey – who is married to Genevieve, a Singaporean insurance agent – has already fully embraced that new chapter of his life, he is not the sort who would one day revisit the career path left astern, albeit very grateful for the professional choices he made along the way.

“It’s funny as it’s the first time I’ve worked in an office, but what an office to be in! I’m so lucky to still be working with horses in an industry I love,” said Bailey, who is also an avid fan of Australian Football League (AFL) and golf.

“Looking back, it’s been quite a journey. Without racing, I wouldn’t have ended up here in Singapore to begin with.

“I began my riding career back home in Adelaide with Gary Kennewell before moving to Mark Kavanagh, and Stuart Gower, for whom I had the most success. I rode for seven years, mostly Adelaide and country Victoria, and even Darwin as stable jockey to Stephen Brown, and rode a tick over 100 winners.

“But when the opportunities dried up, I called it a day in 2012. That was when an old friend of Stuart’s, Glynn Pretty, a jockey who rode with great success in Bukit Timah, told me a new trainer, Steven Lam, was looking for staff in Singapore.

“I worked for Steven for five months before the job with Shane came up, and the rest is history. We’ve had a lot of success together, including four Group 1s (2018 Lion City Cup with Aramco, 2019 Queen Elizabeth II Cup with I’m Incredible, 2020 Kranji Mile and Raffles Cup with Aramaayo).

“The first Group 1 with Aramco in the Lion City Cup is probably the most memorable, but I also enjoyed winning those big races with I’m Incredible for a big supporter of ours, Desmond Ong, who has also become a good friend.

“I was of course sad to leave Shane, who is still a good friend, even if he’s been giving me a hard time at the track all morning – and I suspect that may go on for a while (laughs)!

“But it was time to explore new avenues in racing, and racing media is where my focus is now.”

Author: iRace