Flemington. Randwick. Doomben. Morphettville. Whilst we can all run off the names of our more popular racetracks, did you know there are over 2600 race meetings held annually at over 360 registered racecourses around Australia?
Racing's premier documentary series, A Racetrack Somewhere is a journey into the heart of some of Australia's most iconic and remote race meetings. Created and hosted by racing personality Jo McKinnon and her brother Lachlan, the series takes you behind the scenes and introduces you to fabulous characters at the feature Carnivals of Warrnambool, Birdsville, King Island, Darwin and Kangaroo Island.
With Australia's stunning landscpe as a backdrop, A Racetrack Somewhere provides insight and personal anecdotes from trainers, jockeys and visitors. It celebrates the true racing battler, the thrill of participation and an unmistakable camaraderie that feeds community spirit.
First screened on Racing.com, the series has also been broadcast on selected Qantas and Air New Zealand in-flight television, a first for an Australian racing video.
In New York Last month, A Racetrack Somewhere won the EQUUS Film Festival Winnie Award for Best Equestrian Series International. Now in it's 5th year, the international Festival showcases the creative efforts of film, music and advertising in which the horse is centre stage.
The series was also awarded the 2017 Victorian Racing Media Association Best Feature Award.
A well known racing journalist, host and ambassador, Jo McKinnon was Sky Racing's first female anchor, hosting race days and their Sunday review show, Racing Retro. She has also worked for Moonee Valley Racing Club, Aushorse and Hong Kong Jockey Club. I chatted with Jo after her return from New York:
You were involved in equestrian competition growing up. Where did your interest in racing come from?
Racing captured my attention when I was very young. I remember being completely mystified by the beauty, grace and speed of the racehorse. Then I had my first bet on Kiwi to win the Melbourne Cup. He won and I was hooked! I remember counting my pile of two dollar notes all the way home in the back of the car!
What inspired the creation of the A Racetrack Somewhere documentary? Was this the first time you've worked on such a project with your brother?
I had wanted to do this for a long time. Travelling to race meetings all over Australia in my job with Sky I always felt that there were so many good stories that needed to be told and characters to showcase. Plus a lot of country meetings are in far flung and very beautiful places that I found so inspiring. I wanted to capture that and share it with people. It was also about connecting with what makes me proud to be Australian. It was great for my much younger brother Lachlan to see this side of Australia too and it was a special opportunity for us to travel and work together and share in a very unique experience and challenge.
From the first series, what was your favourite track to visit?
They are all special but I think Birdsville was certainly the most awe inspiring. I had always been fascinated by the place so when we first arrived it was a moment for me. It felt a bit like landing on the moon!
Your career has taken you around the world. Are there any racetracks or Carnivals you're still yet to tick off your bucket list?
I am very lucky that my work has taken me where it has and introduced me to some extraordinary people and experiences. I would love to go to the Kentucky Derby one day and also the Prix De L'Arc De Triomphe and a really crazy, fun meeting would be Il Palio in Italy.
Is there a series 2 in the pipeline, or what's your next project on the agenda?
I am currently working through plans for another series and also ways we can internationalise the concept. In New York there was a lot of interest from the Americans in seeing more of this content so we will see what we can do. Now that we have some serious momentum around the series and people have shown how much they love it, there is something telling me we must embark on another series. l also have lots of other program ideas. I just wish there was more time in the day! Stay tuned!
A Racetrack Somewhere is now available on DVD. Thanks to Jo, I have a copy to give away! For your chance to win, head over to the Racing Girl Facebook page to enter. Competition closes 7.00pm Thursday 14th December, so get in quick!
*Images L to R: Jockeys at Birdsville, Lachlan & Jo McKinnon, Equus Film Festival Trophy.
Images courtesy A Racetrack Somewhere.