Michael Guerin — who hates being called Mick — is a presenter on Trackside TV and long-time racing editor of the Herald. One of 11 children who grew up in Greymouth, he is a cousin of Julie Christie and well-known bar owner Leo Molloy.
1. You're normally a sharp dresser - what's with the hoodie?
Well, I wanted to wear a pink scarf I bought in Argentina a couple of weeks ago but my flatmate took off with it. I have about 50 scarves; I've got about 100 ties too. A dozen suits. I wear lots of my scarves to rugby on Saturdays and it's a bit confronting for the other players. Where are my suits from? Hugo Boss. Trackside pays for all your clothes but I won't wear its gear. When you're MCing an event or whatever you want to wear a good suit. I've got a $4000 one actually.
2. Where did your interest in racing come from?
Like most people, my parents, but I have always loved the horses as much as the racing. My dad was an accountant in Greymouth but on Saturdays he'd work at the tote [TAB]. We'd all go too, of course, and I loved it. My first crush was actually on a horse called Bonnie's Chance. I badly broke my arm and when I woke up after the operation the first thing I asked my parents was whether Bonnie's Chance had won her race that night. I was 12.
3. Did you think you could make a career out of it?
I didn't think, I knew. I had my first story published in a nationwide racing magazine when I was 15. So I naively applied for a job as a racing journalist at the Herald while I was still at school and was flabbergasted when they didn't write back.
4. Describe your childhood.
I am the ninth of 11 children and have seven older sisters. Dad was a really hard-working man but we never had much money. Education and sport were big deals in our house. We went to church, fought, laughed and ate a lot of potatoes, because that is what Irish people with no money do. When I went to school at 5 and realised everybody else didn't have 10 brothers and sisters I felt sorry for them. Everyone in Greymouth knew us: there were 170 people at our school and we were 8 per cent of them.
5. What kind of kid were you?
I was a super smart kid. I could read by the time I was 3 because my sister Annette wanted to be a teacher and so she taught me. I would be in bed at night and Mum and Dad would have people over. They'd get me out of bed, give me a pen and paper, and the visitors would give me their names and addresses and I'd write them, just to prove this 3-year-old kid could do it.
6. What were your early TV appearances like?
Like a budgie on speed. I talk fast. When you have 10 brothers and sisters you talk fast. No one complained though because no one could understand what I was saying. Then I met a wonderful speech coach named Dick Weir. The man is a saint.
7. You're part of the Leo Molloy/Julie Christie clan - what do you all have in common?
Our mums were the Doolan sisters and we've got about 150 people in our immediate family. Do we have reunions? Yeah, but we call them funerals. Like many people who grew up in small towns we have a similar work ethic. I am as proud of them as I am of all the other West Coasters who have achieved their goals because there wasn't exactly a Pied Piper walking around Greymouth leading us all to the promised land.
8. You're known for your love of cars and girls - are you a Flash Harry?
I wouldn't say flash - I don't wear a watch, a boat or waste my day at boozy lunches. But I have loved cars since I was mesmerised by a champagne-gold Porsche I saw when I was a kid. I thought it was the most magnificent thing I'd ever seen. I've got a Maserati now. You can come across as a tool driving sports cars but I buy them for me, not anybody else.
9. When have you been at your lowest and how did you pull yourself out?
When I was 24 my best friend took his own life in a violent way. I had to identify his body. We had no idea it was coming. I hit the bottle pretty hard for a while but that just added headaches to the heartache. I decided the best way to honour him was to work hard and try to succeed. Then this January my Mum passed away and I couldn't sleep properly for weeks until I got her initials tattooed on my shoulder, which gave me a weird sense of calm. Now I take her all around the world with me, rub my tattoo and say things like: "Look Mum, we are in Rio!"
10. You were dumped from Trackside for four years after making a bet on credit at the TAB. How did you cope with that?
I did something stupid and lazy so there was no feeling of injustice. I was comfortable with what the Racing Board did. And it gave me the opportunity to branch into more sports work. Do I make money from betting? That's a tricky one. I'm worried about the repercussions of that question. If you asked me if I was a successful gambler, I'd say yes. [Betting's] never got on top of me. Like most punters I used to bet for fun, now I bet to make money. The difference is research and the removal of emotion.
11. You're 44 - why have you never married?
The last thing my Nana said to me was, "Michael, don't get married, just enjoy life." I took it literally. Her name was Nancy Doolan and she was married to Danny Doolan, who the famous bar in Auckland's Viaduct is named after. Their photo still hangs on the bar wall. I'll get married one day. Timing is really important for that. Do I have a girlfriend? I'd rather not discuss that. It might be offensive to some people.
12. How was growing up in a large family?
It gives you confidence. When you are genuinely loved by a large group of people you think: "Who gives a f*** if that person doesn't like me?"