IN Our People
A chat with Ellerslie's resident Bugler: John McGough
Horses, jockeys & trumpets? Learn a little more about the First Call.
April 07, 2021

Horses, jockeys & trumpets?  We sat down with Ellerslie Racecourse’s resident Bugler, John McGough, to learn a little more about the First Call and what it's like playing in front of an electric Ellerslie crowd. 

What is the history behind the bugle call?

I believe it originated from the military. It has been associated with racing since the 18th century and is a signal that all horses should be in the paddock, in correct order, to proceed to the track. 

How did you get involved with bugle calling?

I have been performing in bands and as a solo entertainer for 37 years. Apart from the many varied jobs I do on the trumpet, the Last Post is a bugle call I am often asked to perform on Anzac Days and funerals and now thanks to Ellerslie, I have been given the job to perform the Call To Post to welcome the horses into the birdcage. 

They found me by searching

Do you remember your first call? 

Yes, it was at the Ellerslie meeting on Melbourne Cup day three years ago. It attracted a lot of media attention on TV, in the NZ Herald and on social media. 

What do you love most about being Ellerslie's resident Bugler? 

There are so many reasons why I love it. The huge crowds Ellerslie attracts. Patrons start the day rather quietly but as the wonderful Ellerslie hospitality takes its course, the cheers and fun from the crowd when I appear really gets them engaged. 

I love working with all the team at Ellerslie and as I am not a racing man, I have really enjoyed observing how each individual makes their contribution to a meeting. From management to trainers, hospitality, doctors, vets, jockeys and more. One thing that is most evident to me, is the care and love that appears to be everywhere for those beautiful animals. I've also enjoyed the after-parties. Ellerslie has hosted some great bands after the races. My friend Sam Thompson is the bass player for Drax Project and the Ellerslie after party was the first time I had the opportunity to hear them live. The Jordan Luck Band was also a treat to listen to. I even had an unexpected added bonus when Jordan and the band invited me up to play some horn lines to one of their many well-known hits!

I feel very privileged to have the job of performing the Call to Post and be Ellerslie’s resident trumpeter. I take pride in the quality of my performance every meeting. Long may it continue!