Crowds watching horse racing at Haydock Park

21st May 2015

Changing roles: Out of the office and into a tractor

My role at The Jockey Club has changed recently, I have swapped the comfort of an air conditioned office and spreadsheets for the green open spaces of racecourses. When I joined I was the Group Racing Analyst working in London but this year I was appointed as Group Trainee Clerk of the Course.

The role started on 2nd March with two weeks assisting Simon Claisse in the run up to and during the Cheltenham Festival. The expression “In at the deep end” has never been more true of my career.

From there I went to Haydock Park, where I am to be based for the majority of my training, learning the ropes under the guidance of Kirkland Tellwright, Clerk of the Course, and Maurice Crooks, Head Groundsman. I have spent a lot of time with Maurice and his team of ground staff, learning what their job entails and the machinery they use to repair and maintain the track.  Some of the team have been here for the best part of 40 years, they have a great knowledge of the turf and the idiosyncrasies that can occur.

Clerks of the Course work closely with the ground staff to make sure the track surface is in the best condition possible for racing. What people might not appreciate is the hard work that goes in after racing, those first days after racing are crucial to getting the track repaired for the next meeting.

Shadowing days

One of the other parts of my training is spending time with race day officials to understand their roles and how they relate to Clerk of the Course. I go and spend a day shadowing them and asking a lot of questions. So far I have spent time with Robbie Supple, Starter Team Principal, at a jumps fixture at Warwick. I also plan to spend time with him at a flat meeting, as loading horses into stalls is a very different process to a National Hunt tape start.

I have also spent time with Paul Barton, Head of Stewarding, to understand how they make sure the rules and regs are abided by on a race day.

One of the more intriguing days was spent with Georgie Robarts, Clerk of the Scales. I am used to seeing race days from the parade ring and grandstand, so it is a very different view of the day sat behind the scales desk. There is a lot more to that role than just weighing jockeys in and out, They also ensure that the riders wear the correct colours and horse’s carry the correct headgear whilst controlling the activity within the weighing room. I still have lots of these shadowing days left to come, vets, judges, doctors. Only now am I beginning to realise how many people are central to smooth raceday operations.

Do I miss the spreadsheets? In short… No. I am really enjoying being out on the racecourse on race days and learning new skills, the newest of which is how to operate a tractor