There surely isn’t a horseracing personality in this country that Joe Public Punter identifies more readily with than the irrepressible Shaheen Shaw.
The man behind the colourful small screen character that goads bettors to spend their hard earned cash is a hyperactive old school racing fanatic with the perpetual energy of a Duracell bunny – and that’s whether he’s waxing lyrical about a maiden plate anywhere from Kimberley to Kempton.
He may deny it, but rumour has it that even Ngong raises his heartbeat!
He speaks about his life, his studies and his love of the sport of kings…
What is your name and age?
Shaheen Wakefield Shaw. Aged 45.
Please tell us about your upbringing and education.
I grew up as part of the proletarian class in the slums of Muizenberg and attended the local junior and high schools, my schooling career meandering on somewhat longer than the average. I’m a village boy. Currently completing my first of a four year degree through UNISA.
What are your two biggest vices?
Cheap red wine which I have forsaken for an interminably lengthy period and ‘birds’ from Brazil.
Do you consider yourself a celebrity ?
Do me a favour, the question makes me cringe…I leave that to the name-dropping lot and those hoisted by their own petard.
Where does your interest in horseracing originate?
My old dad, bless him, was sick for the game. A hard worker, I fear his gambling habits may have left us less flush. Will my children read this?
How did you land up working for Tellytrack?
I was commentating in Cape Town when offered a job at the now defunct IGN, and grasped it with both hands; seeing it as a way of escaping a life of internal vassaldom.
What is your take on the recent overseas racing blackout by Tellytrack?
I’m happy that’s now behind the channel and we back to the frenetic broadcasting of a barrage of local and international racing on a daily basis. Sweet Lord, it was becoming dreary…
You appear to work a lot of ‘prime time’ shifts. Is that by your choice or do management insist on it as you are their top man?
I can’t comment for management.
Having perused all the questions before sitting down to answer, I’m aware some are rather ‘tricky’; so I think it’s time for a disclaimer: All views and comments are strictly my own as per my right of opinion in our jolly old Constitution blah, blah, blah…
I have very adroit colleagues – Nico Kritsiotis, Cecil Mthembu, Alistair Cohen, Dave “follow Molly and fill your wally!’’ Mollet and gentlemanly Jimmy Lithgow.
I have degrees of respect for all the aforementioned and don’t see myself as anything out of the ordinary.
Do you get ‘made up’ before shows?
Yes, and most infuriating it is too! Cecil likes to refer to it as “a touch up”.
Oft I will hear the man ask the makeup artist:“Dear can you touch me up…”
Rather licentious is my good friend Cecil!
Have you ever been nominated for an Equus Award and does that sort of thing blow your hair back?
Nominated for what, ‘’Ass of the year’’?
I attended one awards ceremony years ago and due to prior arrangements haven’t returned for a decade.
While you have a characteristic frown, you never appear nervous in the studio. Do you ever get stage fright or lost for words?
No, although I may possibly get nervous and somewhat feral if I had to interview ‘Viking Harry’ or the ‘Boys from Ngong’.
Oh, and what is all that scribbling about on your race card?
I’m always scribbling and writing like a scrivener taking instruction from an illiterate Horn of Africa warlord. It is just a habit I enjoy and find relaxing.
Who are the best and worst interview subjects for you on an average day?
I am happy to interview whoever they have lined up for Under Starter’s Orders.
It was an atrocious day of sweltering heat. I was fitter for Bedlam than to walk the streets, and even had an epiphany that New Zealand would win the cricket world cup. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your viewpoint, they won nothing!
What happened to a poster called Chainsaw on the ABC?
A most unfortunate happening, that good man, Rob Brogan banned me. Bob just couldn’t come to terms with the fact that I had no knowledge of the Battle of Bannockburn or Crabbie’s Original Alcoholic Ginger Beer. 😉
You appear to reminisce a lot about the ‘old days.’ Was racing and life in general more enjoyable then?
The impression of those days are everlasting.
I can remember so many minor things about those meetings I attended as a young lad at Kenilworth/ Milnerton, salad days of youth they were.
Racing It’s a Rush. Is it a window dressing exercise or some meritorious good intention by racing?
I believe it to be of good intention.
Clairwood being sold – good or bad?
I loathe to see any racecourse close its turnstiles and think we have culled too many.
You weren’t a bad commentator. Why do you not call races anymore?
“You weren’t a bad commentator”, is an apt way of putting it.
I was never happy calling in Johannesburg and decided to call it a day. I’m far less stressed doing Mauritius commentary, which I enjoy.
Are you a big sports punter?
Depends on the ‘holder of the purse string ’, who is not renown for her generosity.
The Soccer GG bet was launched last week. Are you really as enthusiastic about it as you came across in the launch interview?
Sunshines, support the Bipot and Soccer GG, these are TOP, TOP BETS !
Did the Stipes get the Vodacom Durban July objection verdict correct in your view?
Opinions differ, but I still believe wholeheartedly that the decision was the correct one. Accolades to owner Michael Leaf, who took it on the chin. I found his reaction to what for many would be a bitter pill to swallow, most commendable.
If you had the chance to take up another position in horseracing, whose job would you choose and why?
All of us would like to have been jockeys but unfortunately were not impish enough in stature. I’m happy doing what I do currently but if I live long enough to get my degree, I will definitely diversify.
Where do you see yourself in ten years from now?
If not in a cemetery then in court, and hopefully on the right side of the bar!
Any message for the hard done by punter out there?
Viva la punter, V-I-V-A! They are the life blood of the game…No, that’s not entirely correct – They are the game, hit them HARD!