Matt Hill: Driven by passion

26 October 2023 Written by Brad Waters

As the trusted and definitive voice of racing, including the Lexus Melbourne Cup, Matt Hill’s journey was shaped by learning from the very best in the industry.

Summer and Winter Olympics, tennis, and the AFL have all vied for broadcaster Matt Hill’s affection during his illustrious career, but it is racing that truly captivates his soul. Among all the sporting events, the Lexus Melbourne Cup holds a special place in Hill’s heart, igniting his passion for the sport since before his teenage years.

“My first memory of going to a racetrack was at Flemington. It was a Wednesday meeting when I was about 11. I remember pinching the race book out of grandad’s hand and I’ve been hooked ever since,” recalls Hill, reflecting on his early experiences at Flemington Racecourse, where his racing journey began.

Accompanying his grandfather to the track became the foundation of his lifelong love for the sport.

While most young racing fans are drawn to the magnificent equine athletes or the colourful jockeys, Hill had a different connection. “I used to hope grandad would have a bet in the last in Adelaide then we could stay another half hour so I could watch the race callers walk out of their box,” Hill reveals. “I was star-spotting.”

The polished diction of the race caller along with their ability to paint a picture of the events on the track to television or radio audiences progressed from a curiosity to an obsession for Hill during his teenage years.

A turning point in Hill’s journey came when he received an opportunity to spend time in the commentary box at Flemington with renowned caller Greg Miles as a birthday gift. This experience eventually led to Hill’s first job, assisting his idol with equipment setup during Melbourne’s Sunday racing events. Recalling those early days, Hill says,

“I’m a big believer that if you’re going to be successful in life, you have to have idols and you have to have influences and mentors.

I learnt a lot from Greg, especially, like anything in life, the one percenters are very important.”

After an impressive five-year tenure with Sky Racing, during which he claimed the prestigious John Tapp Scholarship for young callers and rose to become Sydney’s top race caller, Hill’s abundant talents led him to explore other sports.

However, the allure of racing proved too strong for the Melbourne boy from the inner west, ultimately drawing him back into the world of racing. Following the retirement of his idol, Greg Miles, who had called an impressive 36 Melbourne Cups, Hill seamlessly transitioned into the role of Melbourne’s number-one race caller in 2017.

The years of honing his craft and practising his race calls alongside Miles and other industry professionals at Melbourne racetracks had prepared him for this coveted position.

Despite being relatively young to assume the mantle as the voice of Melbourne racing, Hill’s grounding that included radio school, elocution lessons and voice coaching prepared him for the honour.

Legendary race caller Greg Miles was a pivotal influence and mentor in Matt Hill’s career. (Michael Dodge/Racing Photos)

In his inaugural Melbourne Cup call in 2017, Hill brilliantly captured the victory of Joseph O’Brien-trained Rekindling, who led home a remarkable trifecta of overseas runners, defeating Johannes Vermeer (trained by Joseph’s father Aidan), in a thrilling showdown. Hill’s performance in his maiden Lexus Melbourne Cup left him relieved, and he continued to deliver exceptional descriptions of subsequent editions of Australia’s greatest race. Despite his experience, Hill admits he still feels a dose of pre-Melbourne Cup nerves, as each year’s race call becomes an enduring part of the nation’s sporting history.

Acknowledging his role’s significance, Hill said, “It’s a lonely job, but it’s the most satisfying job in sports broadcasting for that reason alone.”

The Lexus Melbourne Cup, steeped in history and deeply ingrained in Australian culture, holds a special place in his heart.

“To be the one responsible for painting that race to the world is actually a privilege,” Hill expresses. “That’s always the nerve-wracking thing because it will still be replayed in 100 years’ time.”

While the Lexus Melbourne Cup is one of the showpiece events of the VRC calendar at Flemington, Hill said every meeting at the famous racecourse presents its own challenge.

“Flemington out of any track in Australia is the hardest to call at, but it’s also the most satisfying,” Hill explains. The spacious Flemington circuit presents unique challenges for a race caller. “There’s a lot of tricky starts, especially the 1400m, with sizeable fields where horses can be hidden from view. There’s also the straight races,” Hill reveals. But it doesn’t worry him. “I love calling there. It’s a special place.”

Hill believes that the ultimate test for a race caller’s memory and skills lies in Flemington’s four-day Melbourne Cup Carnival. “You always feel, when you walk into Flemington, that you can’t rest on your laurels there, so you always have to be on your game,” Hill admits. The pressure on jockeys and trainers is palpable, and Hill shares that he also feels the weight of expectations during each of the carnival’s four days. “It would be like a golfer taking on Augusta,” he compares. “You’ve got to be in form when you go there or it could be a bit of a beast.”

As well as his work in Victorian racing – he is of course the trusted voice of the Cox Plate and the Caulfield Cup – Hill can be heard at the Australian Open tennis, the Olympics, in the AFL commentary box, the Grand National in the UK and most recently, calling the races at Royal Ascot for

Racing will always be his first love, however, with its beauty lying in its unpredictability.

“The great thing about racing is you never know what you’ll see. You expect the unexpected but you’re expected to go with that moment.”

As a race caller, his role is to capture and convey those magical moments to the world.

By sharing his passion, dedication, and respect for racing, Matt Hill continues to leave an indelible mark on Melbourne’s racing landscape. His commitment to his craft and his ability to bring the excitement of the track to life through his words make him an invaluable asset to the industry.

Matt's Cup calls to remember

2017 "Johannes Vermeer and Rekindling stride for stride, and Rekindling has won the Melbourne Cup!”
2018 "The Blue Army have done it at last! Cross Counter has won the Melbourne Cup!"
2019  "Vow And Declare's won it for Australia! They're on top of the world!"
2020 "Twilight Payment! What a ride, what a win, in a Cup we'll never forget!"
2021 "And it's Verry Elleegant! Ten Group 1s and now the greatest of them all, the Melbourne Cup!"
2022 "Gold Trip wins it in a real staying contest for the ages!"