For over two decades, Josh Fleming’s voice has rung out at horse races across Queensland.
It was humble beginnings for the Sky Racing caller who called his first Birdsville Races at just 14 years of age. At that point in time, Fleming had called a handful of country race meetings around the central west Queensland region.
Under the wing of the late John Wallis, a Queensland Racing stalwart who spent four decades as a steward, Fleming got his call up to one of the most famous and unique thoroughbred meets in Australia.
“We were about six months out from the Birdsville Races that year and they didn’t have a caller,” Fleming reminisced. “They went looking for a caller and John said he knew this kid who was going okay and that he should be given a go.
“I walked away from my first [Birdsville Races] and thought ‘oh well, at least I did one’ and I didn’t think I’d be back again,” he added.
This past April was Fleming’s 18th Birdsville Races.
“I can’t thank the club enough for what they’ve done for me,” he said.
His love for calling came from his grandparents who loved to listen to the races. The Barcaldine local would do phantom calls in the backyard while kicking around the rugby league ball, and would even pull the race schedule out of the paper and practice his calls from that.
“I started from nothing really but now it’s become my whole life,” said Fleming, who called his first race at Longreach in 1998.
“A lot of people want to do something in life but don’t get to do it so I’m definitely one of the fortunate ones to make a career out of it.”
While the 37-year-old has a long list of tales from his time as a caller, including when he did a bit of camel race calling as a 15-year-old, one event Fleming hasn’t forgotten was ‘the big wet’ at the 2016 Birdsville Races.
In the space of 24 hours, 45 millimetres fell over Birdsville cutting all roads in and out of the town due to the record falls.
“To see what had to be done for that track to be raceable after all the rain…to see the mound of mud on the infield after getting all the wet claypan off the track, it was something I’ve never seen before,” he said.
After nearly two decades of attending the ‘Melbourne Cup of the Outback’, Fleming says it is the friends he has made along the way that has kept him coming back every time.
“It’s all about the people, the friendships I’ve forged here over the years. It’s so great to come out here and see our friends again and make the most of it,” Fleming said.
“We are not here for a long time but a good time.”
Tickets for the September 2022 Birdsville Races are now on sale. To get your ticket click here.