Love letter straight from the heart

23 February 2024 Written by VRC

Black Caviar Lightning Day featured the annual beloved Love Letter to Racing event, presented by 3AW’s Ross Stevenson. Notable personalities UFC athlete Jack Jenkins, crime reporter John ‘Sly’ Sylvester, Victorian Chamber of Commerce CEO Paul Guerra, and Karyn Fenton-Ellis of Te Akau Racing shared their heartfelt letters.

Ross Stevenson’s Love Letter to Racing offers a platform for passionate racing enthusiasts to share their experiences with the great sport.

The 3AW radio presenter began the tradition in 2016, setting the event against the backdrop of a lunch at Flemington on Black Caviar Lightning Race Day.All proceeds generated from the event are donated to Ronald McDonald House Charities Victoria and Tasmania, the Victoria Racing Club’s newest Pin & Win charity partner.

Stevenson has been enamoured with racing since he was a young boy when his mother worked in a TAB in Hawthorn, and he was tasked with stamping the backs of betting slips for “$3 and a Kit Kat.”

Bringing people who love racing together to celebrate the sport was Stevenson’s goal with the event, while raising money along the way. Past letter writers have included a range of people, from those within the industry such as champion jockey Glen Boss and Lindsay Park’s Prue Hayes, to those who have grown up with it, like VRC Board member Ann Peacock, and those who just simply love it, such as comedian Tommy Little. Each event and the people chosen represent a cross-section of the sport’s fan base.

CEO, Australian Chamber of Commerce

Paul Guerra

Currently on the Board of Racing Victoria, Paul has a passion for horse racing and is a part-owner of Zaaki.

Paul’s Love Letter to Racing is a vivid testament to his deep affection for the sport. Taking the audience on a poetic journey, he paints a vibrant portrait of the racing world, celebrating its diverse cast of characters and the thrilling atmosphere that surrounds it. From the strappers to the stewards, and the bookies to the breeders, Paul acknowledges the integral roles played by all who contribute to the sport. He has an appreciation for the sense of community that racing fosters, whether it’s the camaraderie of attending the track with friends, the experience of exploring race meetings around the globe or an office sweep. While Paul’s involvement in the Zaaki story undoubtedly stands out as a highlight of his racing journey, it’s evident that it is merely the icing on the cake of his love affair with the sport.

Author and crime reporter

John Silvester

John ‘Sly’ Sylvester is an accomplished journalist, author and radio commentator. His connection to racing is a fascinating and unusual one.

In his Love Letter, John transports us back to 1956, a year marked by the introduction of television in Australia and the Melbourne Olympics. He recounts the era when off-course betting was illegal and there was a clandestine gambling culture. Through amusing anecdotes of his father’s involvement as a police officer, John sheds light on the covert operations conducted to combat illegal bookmaking. He details the formation of special police units tasked with cracking down on SP bookies, and credits the efforts of his father and other officers for paving the way for the modernisation of betting regulations, culminating in the establishment of the TAB.

Director, Te Akau Racing

Karyn Fenton-Ellis MNZM

Alongside her husband David Ellis CZNM, Karyn owns and manages one of New Zealand’s most successful thoroughbred racing operations, Te Akau Stud and Te Akau Racing. With stables in New Zealand, Cranbourne and Singapore, the team is currently enjoying the success of Group 1 champion, Imperatriz.

In her Love Letter, Karyn reminisces on the journey from childhood to adulthood, where her love for horses blossomed into a deep connection with the racing world. Racing provided comfort and inspiration, showing her the way through difficult moments and helping her find resilience. Grateful for the lessons learned and the lasting friendships forged through racing, Karyn expressed her devotion to the sport that gives her so much joy.

Professional MMA and UFC fighter

Jack Jenkins

Jack Jenkins was introduced to racing by his grandmother, and it now occupies a significant part of his life. His nickname pays homage to the legendary Phar Lap, a horse known for its remarkable work ethic, a trait associated with Jack throughout his career.

In his Love Letter, the UFC champion draws parallels between fighting and racing, emphasising the dedication and split-second decisions required for success in both sports. Jack’s love for racing is evident as he reminisces about poignant racing moments, like Damien Oliver's emotional Melbourne Cup victory. From his earliest favourite horse, So You Think, to his current admiration for Zaaki, Jack shares humorous anecdotes, including a case of mistaken identity as one of Zaaki’s owners. Expressing his deep appreciation for horses and the people who care for them, Jack shares his dream of one day working in the racing industry when his fighting career is behind him