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Nick Gordon

Turn To The Sports Pages First

Nick Gordon (photo: supplied)

Nick Gordon (photo: supplied)

Nick Gordon is the new face (and pen!) behind Racing, It’s A Rush. He’s from a racing background, has a degree (and a clutch of awards) in journalism and all in all seems rather a good choice for the job. Better yet, he seems to take his title “PR & Communications” seriously and appears to be quite forthcoming. While Nick is still getting his feet under the table, he chats to us about the new Grand Heritage initiative as well as plans for the Cape Summer Season.

Getting to know Nick

Twenty-eight year old Nicholas Michael Gordon was born and grew up in the south of Joburg.  “As far as my background in horseracing is concerned, my father Alan Gordon was a jockey so I have been around the game my entire life.  My uncle, trainer Scott Kenny, has also taught me pretty much everything I know about racing from examining yearlings on the farms to spotting potential at sales, reading races and their possible outcomes, studying form lines to pedigrees and starting the cycle all over again.”

Why journalism?

Dorothy Parker once quipped “If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.”  Fortunately Nick seems to be coping OK.  “My late grandfather was a journalist (ending up as Associate Editor at Financial Mail) so that’s where I got the idea to be a journalist.  He also loved racing and we’d spend plenty of afternoons watching Tellytrack and trying to outdo one another in finding winners, no punting involved, just by watching horses at the canter past.”

Why sports writing in particular?

“I loved sport but was never really brilliant at it so ended up writing about it.  I gave just about every sport a try in high school. Cricket was my first love, I played rugby in Grade 8 before everyone else grew and I didn’t, so I turned to hockey as a winter alternative.  I also played tennis and water polo for a couple of seasons, but was never going to go to Wimbledon or the Olympics.  Lords was also out of the question.”

“I participated mainly because I was in boarding school and it was a great way to pass the time in the afternoons. I’d spend Saturday mornings watching the first XI and making my assessment and analysis on the match etc.”

“I was useless at maths and science in school so accounting or engineering was never going to work. I loved English and as I mentioned earlier, my grandfather being a hack also played a part in me picking the profession. My second choice on my varsity application forms was Sports Communications, so it’s safe to say I had my heart set on becoming a sports writer.” “The words of Chief Justice Earl Warren spring to mind. ‘I always turn to the sports pages first, which records people’s accomplishments. The front page has nothing but man’s failures.’”

Cutting his teeth

Aslan

Aslan

“As a student I always had the idea that becoming a racing journo would be a good fit, so I tried to explore that avenue and was able to get some great advice from Charl Pretorius during that time. I used to write big race previews / reviews for Sportingweb (unpaid gig, but was great to see my name accompanying an article) and the main piece I can remember writing for the RA was when Aslan won the Summer Cup.”

“The big days are great with all the best horses on display. There are just some moments that have stuck with me like the tussles between Wolf Whistle & Yard Arm, or when Ilha Da Vitoria flashed up the rail to win the Summer Cup. Those are two that have stuck, but there are loads more.”

While it’s never fun being a starving freelancer, was it an instructive period? “Of course. Any feedback I could get, whether good or bad was important in my development as a writer. It never stopped even when I became a full-time hack. I was lucky enough to go from being a regular reader of one of South Africa’s greatest ever sport’s writers, Jon Swift, to sitting next to him as a novice writer and he taught me plenty.”

Decorated

Nick has a number of Journalism awards under his belt, notably SA Hockey Association Writer of the Year for 2011 and two consecutive Sports Writer of the Year Awards from the Citizen. “I was fortunate enough to cover just about every sport that South Africans are interested in during my time at The Citizen. I started there as a sub-editor just before the World Cup in 2010 and then got a break as a club sports reporter after someone had left and eventually worked my way up to being a full-blown sports writer.” “I was fortunate enough to travel and work took me to the Olympic Games in London back in 2012 (the greatest experience of my life but also the hardest I have ever worked), as well as world title fights in Los Angeles and Thailand among a number of international assignments.”

“Sport is an emotional roller-coaster, trust me I’m an Arsenal fan so I know what I’m talking about. No two days were ever the same and I got to tell some amazing stories. The fact that I got paid to watch sport meant I pretty much had the greatest job in the world.”

Racing stripes

“My father was a jockey. I was five when he sadly passed away in a car accident while on a stint riding in Zimbabwe. His ashes are scattered over the finish line at Newmarket. The first time I can remember sitting on a horse was in Stanley Ferreira’s ring at Newmarket when I was three or four and I remember spending time at his yard too.” “There was a stage in my life when I really wanted to go to the Academy, but sadly as a chubby teenager that was never going to materialise. I did get to spend lots of Saturday’s at Mike de Kock’s Randjes base (used to tag along with Scott when he was agent for Kevin Shea and Jannie Bekker) and got to ride a bit (basically to track from stables and then while warming up / ringing).”

“Once I had graduated I found that jobs were seriously hard to come by so I filled the five months after my degree by hanging around at Sean Tarry’s yard (at that stage Scott was his assistant) and ended up getting some hands-on experience in his two year old barn and spent plenty of mornings watching track work, observing the vets at work and learnt a lot about the stable life aspect of the game. I’ve also been able to cover the Vodacom Durban July a couple of times.”

“I also enjoy history and tradition and racing has plenty of both. I met my wife Gina at Varsity, but as fate would have it, she is the niece of jockey Brett Smith and her grandfather Mr Eric Smith currently has a useful filly (Hollie Point) in training with Alec Laird. She runs in the Gr2 Joburg Spring Challenge on Saturday.”

Joining The Rush

Racing, It's A Rush logoHow did you get involved with RIAR and what is it that attracts you to racing? “The opportunity presented itself at a time when I felt like I needed a new challenge and the fact that I love racing made it that bit easier to make the decision to make the move away from a thoroughly enjoyable career in sports writing. Much like sport, racing is a rollercoaster ride. It provides highs and lows and plays with emotions.”

“In the beginning I was also one of those people who was unsure about the concept, but the more I spoke to those in the know, the more I realised that there have only ever been good intentions when it comes to this project. There’s a group of people behind the scenes who are working tirelessly to ensure that this is a success.”

“I think to start with there’s a lot of potential with regards to building relationships with the media going forward. If they can be convinced that this is working, then it opens up a few more avenues with regards to exposure and enhancing public knowledge. Racing is in a position where it has to compete for attention with the major sports in South Africa as far as mainstream media coverage is concerned, but there are so many stories to tell and there must surely be a way to get those out. There’s also the lifestyle aspect of racing to consider which is where RIAR comes into the equation as far as events and providing appeal to that market is concerned.”

“Coming from a media background, I think I can add value with regards to the variety of stories that racing has to tell. If I can get the message out and help gain public interest, I think I would have done OK. I think it’s also a case of highlighting the sport to the public and showing them that this is still a great way to spend an afternoon/evening and that it’s an ongoing thing, not only on the big event days etc. Part of that is also providing an educational platform to try and dispel some of the myths and misconceptions around the sport.”

The job so far

Nick Gordon

Nick in action at the Grand Heritage day (photo: supplied)

“There seems to have been nothing but positive feedback about The Grand Heritage and the day itself went off without a hitch. There was a good on-course attendance and a definite buzz throughout the afternoon. What this does is provide us with good momentum as the “Summer In The City” campaign gathers steam with the Peermont Emperors Palace Charity Mile, the Air Mauritius International Jockeys’ Challenge and the Gauteng Sansui Summer Cup.” “We’re also excited about the “Summer of Champions” which begins with the Matchem Stakes at Durbanville this weekend and we’re hoping that the energy intensifies as we head towards the marquee events like the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate and of course the Sun Met, celebrated with Mumm. To come on board when we’re gearing up towards the richest race day in Africa is massive and it should be a fantastic event.”

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