Regarded as one of the gentlemen of the industry, former race caller and SAJC course announcer John O’Neil had a voice instantly recognized in racing circles.
John’s 69-year career began in 1949 at 5RM Renmark, calling both the gallops and trots. He quickly rose through the ranks and was appointed Assistant to Matt Hynes at 5DN Adelaide, assuming the top job in 1958.
Over the years, John’s Adelaide race calls and radio previews were heard exclusively on 3UZ Melbourne and from 1976 on Radio ABC throughout SA. John was only supposed to be employed at the ABC for four weeks, however he ended up staying on the ABC for the next 21 years.
When Adelaide’s newest television station SAS 10 opened in 1965, John presented the evening and weekend racing previews for close to 20 years. In 1976, a unique arrangement between SAS 10 and the ABC saw John present racing regularly on both channels.
In his time behind the microphone, John called 27 Adelaide Cups, 27 Great Eastern Steeplechases and 25 Launceston Cups. He was also a columnist for Best Bets for over 30 years.
John’s long and illustrious career was deservedly recognized in 2005 when he was awarded the Order of Australia Medal for media services to thoroughbred racing.
Along with his regular SAJC course announcing duties, John also presented a weekly racing program on Coast FM, a show he hosted right up until his passing.
John had a strong connection with the Darwin Cup Carnival and attended the event for 40 straight years, and for many years hosted organized tours to the top end for Cup Week.
In 2007 John was inducted in the South Australian Hall of Fame and sits alongside some of the legendary names in racing including Colin Hayes, Bart Cummings and John Letts.