25th May 2015

From Parliament to racecourse: Joining The Jockey Club

My name is Matthew Woolston and I am the new Group Racing Executive and Analyst for The Jockey Club.

How did I get into racing? I grew up in Sunderland and a few of my friends were into their horses. Before football matches (and on the odd lunch break) I used to join them in the betting shop and from there grew a love for the sport.

I went to my first Cheltenham Festival in my second year at university - nothing could have prepared for me for that. I went with some mates and we decided to go all out and do all four days. We stayed about 25 miles out of Cheltenham and expected to feel quite out of town, but walked into the pub on the Monday night and everyone was reading the Racing Post. Cheltenham is different to any other sporting event I have been to - everyone is there because of a genuine interest in the sport and most are incredibly informed. The evenings and mornings are all part of it - meeting people and talking about that day's racing.

It made me realise that I wanted to work in the industry so I did the BHA Grad Scheme - unusually in the year before I left uni. I had a year out in my third year and I wanted to know what I wanted to do as a career when I did finally leave. I worked at York Racecourse as my placement, but the highlight of the placement was working with Go Racing Yorkshire on their Yorkshire festival.

Rather strangely, despite aiming to work in racing after uni, I ended up working as a Parliamentary researcher for Nottingham MP, Graham Allen. I had worked on the 2010 election, my degree was in politics and many of the new intake of MPs did not have any staff. It gives you a good grounding in communications and analysing information.

I eventually made the move into racing to work as an odds compiler, first on football and then later on racing. Now I am at The Jockey Club. I was on a train journey to a football match and I just happened to pick up the racing post where I saw the job advertised.

The jobs are a little bit similar in that both are about numbers and analysis, but that is where the similarities end. This job is focussed on the race programme on Jockey Club racecourses and how that fits the horse population.

I am looking forward to the Derby Festival, it should be interesting with four or five horses with a real chance in both the Investec Oaks and the Investec Derby. I thought Golden Horn's most recent performance was really impressive and I am looking forward to seeing him at Epsom.

I am also looking forward to being at Newmarket for the July Festival, the racing is of such good quality, the course is beautiful and the atmosphere is really relaxed.

After that I can't wait for Aintree. It's the one big Festival I have never been to, but I am getting ahead of myself and there is so much to look forward to before then.