Calling With Cohen And Bantering With Bailey
If you haven’t noticed the young talent in Alistair Cohen and Brandon Bailey then you have been living with your head in the sand for a very long time. They each got involved and exposed to racing in very interesting ways. I took some time to catch up with the Highveld based boys to find out a bit more about them and what they have been doing during this tedious lockdown and how they are keeping sane!
Lockdown has been testing on most of us, but for laid back and friendly Alistair Cohen (above) he has been reading, cleaning, ironing, walking his dogs, watching Food Network, Netflix and practicing his golf chipping in the garden. He says that his girlfriend, trainer Candice Dawson, still does not fancy his culinary skills so he rather enjoys her restaurant quality cooking! Cohen says “She could open her own restaurant tomorrow!”
Passionate and vibrant, Brandon Bailey (left), on the other hand has been pretty much “work as normal” for him and his colleagues, keeping the production of Tellytrack operational from their homes.
Bailey thanked the Telemedia and Tellytrack teams for organising them to be able to work from home and keeping the channel going for the punters. Other than the Tellytrack work, Bailey has been trying in these hard times to maintain a healthy lifestyle. He does his exercises regularly, tries to spend sufficient time with his family and has also been reading up on the racing world – learning more about Australian and American racing. Bailey enthuses, that it has been a productive time for him.
As mentioned earlier, they both got involved in the game in an intriguing manner. Bailey thanks his, at the time, school principal Craig Bowker and The Azzie Family for getting him going. Bowker invited some of the students to an afternoon at the races at Turffontein, the youngsters were keen on trying something different and attended the race day, and that was the day that changed his life.
At school he would sit at the back of the classroom and study his Computaform. Once Bailey matriculated, he worked for the Azzie yard and ended up with the Alexander’s. He now works for Tellytrack and has been for the past six years. Brandon thanks everyone that has helped get him this far – he is in love with racing and just wants to get more and more involved in the future, which is evident in his voice when you talk to him.
Cohen’s lure into racing was a tad different. He grew up in Cowey Road which is the main road that runs behind the Hollywoodbets Greyville grandstand. His Dad has always been a R10 punter and always frequented Hollywoodbets Greyville and Clairwood and insisted that he accompanied his father. This was a regular meeting ground for Cohen and his friend Tyson Heffer. The Heffer’s need no introduction today – Cohen said that “on the rare occasions that I could not go racing, I could hear the voices of Craig Peters and Eric Denman from the balcony at home,” London News then won in Hong Kong and It was really the commentary of David Raphael that set the fire inside of Cohen. It was at that moment that he realised he wanted to commentate.
He would call races from in front of his TV while the sound was on mute. Ali’s mom thought he was the bees knees, she clearly knew something back then! When Cohen was 12 years old, Gold Circle held a commentators competition at Clairwood and despite his voice not having broken yet, he showed enough potential for the judges to ask him to call into a tape recorder and using binoculars at the three KZN courses and they would monitor his progress. He also did work experience at Winning Form during school holidays. He sat next to Magic Lips, also known as the Oracle who Cohen says has more knowledge than an encyclopaedia.
There are many that will whole heartedly agree with that comment about Matthew Lips.
When Cohen was 19 he received a call to ask if he would consider relocating to Gauteng to pursue his dream. It was a seven year process from the day of the competition at Clairwoood to calling his first live race at Flamingo Park. Cohen says “there were no shortcuts. You can’t take any if you end up being employed to give a product to the world.”
In short, when both were asked about if they thought racing behind closed doors would work, they were both adamant that it would, as it has in many other countries around the world. Bailey is having, like many, huge withdrawals that set in long ago!
When racing finally gets the greenlight Cohen should be able to get straight back into race calling as it is his passion but has not thought too much about the game during lockdown, treating this time as a “break” from it all. He mentioned that he would end up going insane and getting depressed if he were to wonder daily when racing was going to start again and has therefore distanced himself emotionally from those thoughts.
When chatting to Cohen you can hear and feel his passion and love for racing. Bailey on the other hand feels that he is still learning a lot from the seniors and is using this time to practice and tweak a few things. He is listening to the international callers too. He singles out the gent that calls in Hong Kong – “wow, he is good! I am sure, like most things in life, the first time back in the commentary box after a while, I might be a bit rusty but it certainly won’t take me long at all to get back into rhythm,” says Bailey.
Cohen and Bailey are both singing from the same hymn sheet when it comes to sharing advice for the future of the industry. Brandon says it is important that we all work together instead of against one another, this way so much more will be achieved. We must learn more, help each other more and criticize less –“we also need to be proactive,” he says.
Cohen feels the industry in SA will never die as there are too many good people working hard to ensure things happen. “The foundations are in place for a very bright future,” enthuses Alistair. He went on to say “think of how great it can be with one intelligent voice focused on the sport and putting it where it needs and deserves to be.”
Cohen recently had his first winner with Banha Bridge whom is reportedly fit and ready to run. His last run was below best and Ali assures his horse is better than that. His girlfriend trains the horse and she is champing at the bit to get back racing.
In closing, I asked both young men to tell us something that the public might not know about them.
Bailey says he is always willing to learn and supports constructive criticism. He admits, during lockdown he has become obsessed with virtual racing. He understands that it is not everyone’s cup of tea but he certainly enjoys it – anything to bet on he says!
Cohen, like me, is an OCD freak. Ali Cat (as he is affectionately known) admits to being an absolute sport nutter and with no live sport on currently, one can only imagine the symptoms he is enduring.
He is a long suffering Aston Villa fan and would watch a cricket game between Bhutan and Finland! He also plays golf but says he is the worst in his school. Going back to the OCD – everything has to be in its place, he counts to 18 every morning and every night of his life (why 18, I do not know, I never asked), checks the bed is made, dishes are done, clothes must be ironed and folded perfectly, clothes hung in the correct order by colour and shirts have to be buttoned up, food all divided and has its own place in the fridge, cupboards neatly sorted and “I count and sort my socks regularly too. I am a complete nutter!!” he humorously says.
I feel Alistair’s pain as I am pretty much the same, but a little tamer in the OCD department. It was refreshing to spend some time, albeit electronically with the two young fellow racing enthusiasts and I and many others look forward to hearing their tones again and calling the horses we have backed home.
In closing, at this time, and after learning about Bailey and Cohen, maybe it is time the industry starts including and listening to the voices and opinions of the younger ones – both are needed, older and younger!
Copy: Warren Lenferna, Gold Circle