Friday, 9 October 2015

Superheroes of Turf Supervision

Congratulations to the team at Huntingdon Racecourse, who have won the Jumps Racecourse Ground Staff of the Year Award for the second time in three years, narrowly pushing Cartmel and Worcester into the joint runners-up position.

Well done! And no hard feelings at all. Honestly. I have almost, nearly, completely forgotten the day (back in 1988) when the gate-staff at Huntingdon charged me twice for admission on the same day – once on arrival and a second time after mistakenly visiting the centre of the course, without a pass-out ticket, to watch the first race. If anyone from Huntingdon reads this, I reckon I’m owed about £33.25 including compound interest at 5% per annum over 27 years – but really, it’s nothing. Forgotten already! Congratulations with the award and all that… 

Gary Sharp (the Head Groundsman at Cartmel) and his team are justifiably proud to have been commended by the judges – who included representatives from the BHA’s racecourse inspectorate, the National Trainers’ Federation and the sponsors Pitchcare. Gary runs a small team, consisting of just one other full time groundsman, Martyn Fogg, and several dedicated seasonal workers and local contractors. Together they have worked hard to prepare the track to ever-improving standards. 

The fruits of their labour have been evident this Summer: a season in which we staged more days racing than ever before; introduced a new 2-day June meeting; hosted a record number of runners on the track and welcomed the highest rated horses ever to grace the Cartmel turf. The obstacles were so beautifully presented that, from 467 starters, we witnessed just five fallers and nine unseated riders during the entire season. The track really did look as good in advance of the final meeting, in August, as it did prior to the first race-day in May.

While Cartmel might not be the shortest circuit in the country, the nature of the track means that each horse traverses the south bend between two and four times in each race. That means that the equivalent of 1,193 horses went around the bend within the 99 day duration of our short season. That’s a lot of divots to repair and there’ll be even more next year when we have nine race-days - which makes me think that Gary could soon acquire superhero status... Which probably means that the team at Huntingdon are already superheroes; perhaps they’ve recruited the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, or the X-Men, in disguise? 

Either way, it sheds new light on the true identity of our own hard-working Clerk of the Course who also supervises activities at Kelso and York (where this weekend’s selection is Gracious John in the Rockingham Stakes).  

As well as being associated with our runner-up award for the best Jumps grounds-team, she can also claim a jewel in her tiara for her efforts at York Racecourse, the much deserved winners of this year’s Flat Racecourse Ground Staff of the Year Award. Step forward, that mysterious mistress of award winning turf management: Anthea “Wonder Woman” Morshead.

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