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North West Queensland mourning late trainer and caller

9 February 2024

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By Jordan Gerrans

The North West Queensland racing community is mourning the loss of a true outback character who was just as proficient in calling a race as he was preparing a winner.

Long-time bush trainer and race caller Grant Wiles passed away on Monday of this week following a lengthy battle with illness.

Wiles was 66. 

There was not a race track in the North West that the late Wiles did not call at and he was renowned for his own unique style behind the binoculars.

"You can put the glasses down because this thing is home,” Wiles was known to say when a race was all but over.

Wiles called Julia Creek home and trained his small team of gallopers out of the town, as well as working for the McKinlay Shire Council.

Racing and Sports’ statistics have Wiles preparing 123 winners across his tenure with a licence with Magic Theatre one of the better horses he had in his barn over the years after winning three straight races in 1999.

Fellow Julia Creek trainer Cliff Fitchett used to travel long distances across the state in the car with Wiles as they attended race meetings far and wide.

Fitchett arrived in Julia Creek in 1994 and was a close mate of Wiles’ from there on.

Champion bush jockey Dan Ballard and long-time trainer and race caller Grant Wiles.

“He was very thorough and loved training winners, he was a good horseman,” Fitchett said.

“We travelled horses together out west and into Townsville. He was a good friend and a good mate. He was also a good family man, a family-oriented man.

“He would do anything to help anyone. He was a larrikin as well – don’t get me wrong – and was that way after a few drinks.”

The Wiles stable last started a galloper in a race in late 2018, which was a winner on his home track of Julia Creek with Ollie Runs Riot getting the prize.

Wiles was also involved in the rodeo circuit, was a farrier for his own horses and would often break in a galloper, as well.

He spent time living in Normanton and in NSW for a period of time in his early years before settling in Julia Creek.

As he was a regular in the caller's box at tracks such as Richmond, Maxwelton, Mount Isa, Cloncurry, Hughenden and everywhere in between, Wiles became a popular figure within the racing game.

He often called races in which one of his own gallopers was competing. 

In a different era of calling races, Wiles had his own larrikin style according to Mount Isa-based thoroughbred owner and former caller Andrew Saunders.

The Wiles stable celebrate a winner at Cloncurry back in 2014.

“He always had the binoculars under the arm and was willing to call any race meeting,” Saunders said.

“There is not many left like that around North West Queensland. He would have called at every track in North West Queensland.

“He was a character as well, he was a good-hearted person and the last of one of those true outback characters when it comes to race calling.

“He called it as he saw it and had a bit of fun and flair with it all.”

As he spent decades working on the McKinlay Shire Council and travelled far and wide with his horses – there weren't many roads in the area he did not know like the back of his hand.

And, for someone like Saunders, who works as the Chief of Staff at ABC North West Queensland, an extra set of eyes and ears was always helpful with the vast country they cover in the region.

“There wasn’t a road that Grant did not know in North West Queensland as he had worked on all of them,” Saunders said.

“In the days before Facebook, Grant was always on the radio giving out road reports and keeping people updated in the wet season with all the roads and conditions – it is very different to today as we know.”

Ollie Runs Riot getting the money at Cloncurry back in 2016.

A memorial service for the late Grant Wiles is scheduled for Saturday February 10 at 9am underneath the race caller's tower at Julia Creek Turf Club.

Wiles was a long-time committee man at the club.

“Council also extends our thoughts, prayers and condolences to Grant's family following his many years of valuable service as an employee of McKinlay Shire Council,” the McKinlay Shire Council said on social media.

Chris Pyne worked on the McKinlay Shire Council with Wiles for decades and was close friends with the late trainer for more than 30 years.

Pyne was initially involved with the Hughenden Jockey Club and would chase up his mate to call at his own club before he relocated to Julia Creek for work purposes on the McKinlay Shire Council.

“He was nature's gentleman,” Pyne told ABC North West Queensland.

“He does not have a bad bone in his body and he was generous to a fault.

“He was caring around family. We had a tremendous relationship over a long period of time.”


Racing Queensland extends its condolences to the Wiles family.