It didn’t happen the way anyone could have envisaged, but life was about to take a huge twist in 2015 for Anthony Collins.

After the death of legendary Darling Downs race caller Pat O’Shea following a brief illness, Anthony suddenly found himself on the verge of the biggest career opportunity he could possibly have imagined.

An “unknown” voice with a passion for harness and gallops racing was about to step up and attempt to fill the Clifford Park shoes of his broadcasting idol, mentor and friend.

Eight years later, Anthony has forged an impressive pathway and is now entrenched in his own right as one of Australia’s most respected and popular callers across all three codes. Pat would be proud.

Next Saturday, Anthony lines up for his seventh call of Toowoomba’s famous Audi Centre Weetwood Handicap.

“Pat called 29 Weetwoods,” Anthony recalled. “As a kid in Warwick I used to listen to the Weetwood going home on the school bus and just hung on every one of Pat’s words. That was back in the day when it was run of a Thursday afternoon and it was broadcast on 4WK.”

Pat’s untimely passing ended a golden era of racing and sport broadcasting on the Downs, but a worthy successor was about to be unearthed.

“Alan Thomas actually called the 2015 Weetwood and Josh Fleming did it in 2016,” Anthony said. “My first Weetwood was in 2017, which was the famous dead-heat between Jumbo Prince and Col ‘N’ Lil.”

It was one for the history books.

“It was the first-ever Weetwood winning dead-heat and luckily I stayed out of trying to pick the photo,” Anthony said. “The excitement of calling the Darling Downs premier race will always remain a career thrill for Anthony as he strives each year to uphold the race’s glamour and integrity.

“Even during my first Weetwood, I wouldn’t say I was nervous – a bit anxious probably more than nervous,” Anthony said. “To a degree, I still get that little anxious about making sure I get it right. The Weetwood means so much to so many people. It’s huge for the club (Toowoomba Turf Club) and everyone involved on the day.”

Anthony will call next Saturday’s Weetwood, and accompanying Toowoomba Cup, Garden City Guineas and Pat O’Shea Plate features. His Brisbane Sky Racing colleague and friend Josh Fleming will describe the rest of the nine-race card.

“I think the 2021 win of Apache Chase is my favourite Weetwood to date,” Anthony said. “He is arguably the best horse I’ve had the chance to call so far in my career, and he beat a good field that day.

“And even if I say so myself, I think it was my best Weetwood call so far. I was pretty happy with that one.

“It’s going to be another exciting race next week, especially with the potential of our Mort & Co King Of The Mountain star Yellow Brick possibly lining up in it. He would add another level of interest to the race and a great day for Clifford Park.”

By Glen McCullough