By Tony McMahon
It’s stating the obvious but Michael Charge’s passion for his role as SKY Racing’s trackside host at Queensland’s regional TAB race meetings is almost contagious.
Townsville based Charge is the familiar smiling face with a happy-go-lucky personality presenting the race day tips; interviews and form analysis for Cairns, Townsville, Mackay and Rockhampton race meetings.
“It’s my dream job. I just love it and the racing industry. People don’t realise how many elements there are to the industry. This role with SKY has allowed me to hone in on my passion”, Michael says with typical enthusiasm.
Charge or “Chargey” as he is affectionately tagged by his racing mates has held the position for just over two and a half years now.
During that time, Michael Charge has built up a big following throughout Australia as SKY beams his coverage of the regional central and northern TAB race meetings throughout the country.
His easy going rather natural style of presentation always delivered in a cheery manner has struck an accord with not only viewers but the racing industry stakeholders as well.
Nobody has a bad work to say about Michael Charge as he has been like a breath of fresh air to the 110 meetings he works yearly, bringing them alive and elevating their status.
“I’ve created my own style really and it is not based on copying anyone. However, when I first started, I got some good advice from both SKY’s northern NSW presenter Gary Kliese and Townsville’s Tony Wode. I remember them telling me you can’t watch enough race replays to assist in making selections”, Michael said.
He’s taken the tip spending as much as seven hours a meeting doing his racing homework (research) involving meticulously watching race replays; doing form analysis; scanning stewards reports and assessing facts and figures.
“You have to try to be as much as informed as possible. Things such as gear changes can be big clues. Punters expect nothing less and that’s what I aim to do. After all they are putting their hard earned (money) on so I take that aspect (tipping) very seriously”, he said while dropping the smile and showing a more serious side of his persona.
Although he wouldn’t even dare to think it, Michael’s role, to coin a phrase “isn’t all beer and skittles”.
It involves long drives to and from race meetings such as about nine hours each way from Townsville to work Rockhampton’s Callaghan Park races.
In the last 12 months he has clocked-up over 75,000 klms in the SKY company vehicle servicing at times as many as three meetings a week.
“I don’t mind the driving and it gives me plenty of time to think and focus about the race meeting I’m bound for”, he says.
While Charge is in the business of interviewing and conducted thousands upon thousands in his role, interestingly enough, he is somewhat a maiden at being interviewed himself.
After all, who ever thinks to interview the interviewer?
I found his story to be enlightening while albeit typical of a racing tragic from childhood years who studied that weekly racing bible publication “Best Bets”.
Chargey never in his wildest dreams would have thought that decades down the track he would be spruiking them – best bets that is!
“Actually, I always dreamed of being a jockey as I was a light, skinny kid but three things stopped me. I couldn’t ride, I got too tall and to be honest I probably wouldn’t have had the guts to do it”, he said breaking into a laugh.
Born on Norfolk Island on December 17, 1976 where his father was based in the Federal Police, Michael later grew up in Bundaberg, a city which was to play a pivotal role in his racing career in later years.
His first role there was as a travel agent for ten years (1993-2003) after which he moved to Brisbane to Ambassador Travel “looking after racing tours from 2003-2006”.
While in Bundaberg he was initiated into racing as a kid punter getting his dad to have “50 cent bets” for him at the local race meetings.
Young Chargey helped around the stables of local trainers George Potter and Neville Petersen, gained a strappers licence and went on to become a committee member of the Bundaberg Race Club at 21 years old.
He rose to become vice-president and then president and before moving to Brisbane and where ironically the Ambassador Travel role led to his becoming CEO of the Townsville Turf Club from 2006 to 2017.
“The Townsville Turf Club position came about thanks to James Heddo (former CEO) who I assisted with prizes from Ambassador Travel for Townsville Cup Day. I learnt he was leaving, inquired into the role and the club took a punt and I got the job. I am forever grateful to them for that”, Michael said.
In 2015 whilst CEO there, Michael volunteered with SKY to provide race day presentations such as he now does professionally in a means to “obtain greater racing coverage for Townsville racing”.
It worked so well that when in early 2017 he finished up as CEO there, he was approached by SKY to take on the role he occupies today.
“You close one door to open another, especially in racing”, Chargey said.
Given his popularity, professionalism coated with that unbridled passion for all things racing, my best bet is that the door on Michael Charge’s current role is light years away from closing.
However, if it was to open it would definitely lead to a stairway to far greater heights in the bright lights of racing SKY Racing presentation.