Derek Thompson has planned racecourses for Sheikhs, ridden with the Prince, and has had tea with the Queen
7 April 2016, USA ~ Known as Tommo in the world of horse race broadcasters, his wit, glib spirit, and love of racing has taken him on a wild ride around the world.
Derek, as that is his given name, loves all sports. The broadcasting career came after years of riding and training horses. His gift is gab. The nickname Tommo evolved as he combined his love of sports, especially of racing horses, an insiders knowledge of many of the talent connected with the industry, and his natural knack for promotion.
His career has now spanned over 40 years, but it has not been without a fall at a proverbial hurdle or two. Well, there was the cancer. You can read the details in the book “Tommo Too Busy to Die”. The forward says in part, “Deliciously indiscreet and always entertaining, Derek has countless stories to tell, but the most interesting story of all is his own, and for the first time, good and bad, happy and sad, he is telling it.”
Horsereporter found Tommo in Hollywood preparing for the 2016 Darley Awards, the Oscar’s of Arabian racehorses and their connections.
Tommo, how many days a year do you travel for work?
I anticipate working on 360 days a year. If I’m not, I would be disappointed. Even on Holiday I spend at least two hours work to make sure I keep up with everything that is happening.
What do you use to keep connected when you travel?
My mobile goes with me everywhere. If I don’t have it on me, I feel that I’ve lost part of my body. I get back to everyone within 24 hours. I do a lot of my own work traveling into different time zones. I like things organized.
What devices are in your work briefcase?
An Apple IPad, and my IPhone 6+.
What are your news resources?
I read the Racing Post every day. I pick this up at 6 am every morning. If not at home, I get it on my mobile devices. I would never walk into the races without a Racing Post. I consume it in the morning and do my homework. I love hearing what is happening in every part of the world. We have five race meetings a day in the UK and I try to keep abreast of the news. I log into the important ones and check other sources for the rest.
For World news, I always read a local newspaper wherever I am. In the Gulf, it is the Gulf News, in LA, the LA Times, and the Daily Mail in the UK, but every day my bible is the Racing Post.
The fastest news I know comes by Twitter. I read and follow Twitter for quick results. I like to put up photos and I have 30,000 followers. I appreciate a sense of humor and I l have some very interesting followers.
And in case you are wondering, Tommo does not do Facebook.
Kindly share with our readers your various work hats?
There is the HH Sheikh Mansoor Global Arabian Horse Racing Festival where I work as presenter, commentator, and race caller for the international audience. During many of the events I also do commentary and description on live Abu Dhabi Yas TV. I have been a long-time race commentator in the UK. This can be at any of the 59 race tracks that we have. We broadcast about one or two a week (between 17 announcers). I am a Studio Presenter for At The Races which airs UK interviews, and a presenter for Live racing. I present for Bet Fred TV, speak as an expert for BBC Radio 5 Live, am an after-dinner speaker and a race course lunchtime preview speaker. I also open betting shops – approximately one a week throughout the UK.
My main show, however, is Tommo TV. I introduced this about 5 years ago. It’s quite simply in-house TV for the racecourse. I create an atmosphere so that people enjoy their day at the races with competitions, drawings, best dressed ladies competitions, free kids face painting, or maybe a face painting contest. We might have kid races on the track in between horse races. All of this gets the audience around the winners enclosure. On the days we do Tommo TV there is increased betting turnover and food and drink consumption as we direct the crowd to the right areas of excitement. This all happens on the big screen. We point the camera at the people and they love to see themselves wave from the front of the stands. This aids in getting everyone, including families, to the races as they can get involved and enjoy the day out.
Tell us a bit about what you do when you open a betting shop in the UK with the crowd that comes for the opening.
My job is to get everyone excited. I throw out questions and correct answers earn free bets. I’ll ask things such as, ‘Who won the Derby this Year?’ I pick an easy one to start with. Or I might ask, ‘How many wins did Frankie Dettori have one day at Ascot?’ The answer to that is seven. Another of my standard questions is ‘Who stared in the film The Magnificent Seven?’ I quite enjoy the interaction and feedback.
Tommo, you say you keep your own travel schedule and always know where you are going.
The biggest schedule for 2015 was Royal Ascot week. I did all five days and five other evening races that week. We covered about 4,000 miles in the car during the five days.
How do you get to so many race tracks all over the UK?
I have a driver. Paul is an ex-jockey, Club Security, and former Police driver. He is 100% trustworthy.
Are you one of the hardest workers that you know in the media?
I want to mention how impressed I am with Lara Sawaya. Her work schedule makes mine look miniscule. I have been with her now four years, and she has not done a foot wrong in business.
The other woman in my life is my wife, the beautiful Julie. We met in 1988 when I was interviewing a jockey. She walked behind the jockey and I saw this beautiful girl and totally lost my focus.
Tommo has four children of whom he is equally proud. Alex works in property management; James, a recently retired International rugby player for Scotland; India, whom he says is his favorite daughter; and Hugo, 13.
Are you still traveling as hard and long as you did at the beginning?
When I got cancer three years ago, it changed my travel. I won’t go on any flight longer than 12 hours. I’ve already done all the big races around the world.
Are you healthy now?
I’m cancer free. I had excellent medical care and advice. It’s all in the book.
Any Top Celebrities that you have met or interviewed that you wish to mention?
Well, there was Queen Elizabeth. I was invited to a cocktail at Sandringham. The Queen is a great race fan. She came over to me and said, ‘I know you,’ and I said, ‘I know you too.’ We had a nice chat about racing.
Any parting words?
I’d like to speak about HH Sheikh Mansoor bin Zayed Al Nahyan. His vision in sponsoring these Arabian races around the world does so much to promote all that is good in the UAE, and with Lara Sawaya at the head of this National Delegation, he has the number one girl and it makes for a very successful series and voice for Abu Dhabi and the UAE.
We are sure that you have many who would love to read your back story. Where can one find the book, “Tommo, Too Busy to Die?”
“If you suffer from insomnia, I can guarantee that within five pages, you will be fast asleep and snoring your head off.” Tommo