Q: What made you want to become a Clerk of the Course?
Simon Claisse, the Clerk of the Course at Cheltenham, kindly gave me a job driving a vet at Cheltenham whilst I was at University and I was hooked from there. Everyone I met, who worked in racing, I asked to spend some time shadowing them or working for them on a raceday.
Q) What does a raceday look like for you?
I'm at the course for about 5.30am to walk the course at 6.00am and give a going update by 6.45am. The phone usually starts ringing as soon as that update goes out but if we've had rain overnight it may well ring from 5.30am onwards with trainers wanting more information. After some breakfast at about 8.00am I like to go down to the stables and make sure everyone is happy there before coming back up to the course and setting up the Weighing Room and completing the paper work for the day.
I walk the course again with the Chairman of the Stewards Panel two and a half hours before the first race and then go directly into the Stewards briefing. Once racing starts, I move between the Weighing Room, Parade Ring and Stewards Box, at the top of the March Stand, depending on where the horses and jockeys are and where I'm needed.
On a raceday I'm basically responsible for the safe running and operation of the actual racing. This would include the racing surface, stables, liaison with the BHA and Horsemen (Owners, Trainers, jockeys and Stable Staff), the Grounds, Medical and Veterinary teams and, of course, with our own racecourse operations team.
Q) What is the best thing about working at Goodwood?
Goodwood is such a special place to work, it is the most beautiful Racecourse in the world, so walking the course is hardly a chore! There is a great sense of family and history here without any stuffiness and that's unusual and makes for a wonderful environment. How could the hairs on the back of your neck not stand up when you think of the history of the Estate and Racecourse and to now be a part of that.
Q) What was your highlight of the 2018 season?
Without a doubt the successful completion of my first Qatar Goodwood Festival. It was a great meeting with some wonderful racing. The lead-up to the meeting was very tough, given the unprecedented warm and dry spell (3mm rain in 6 weeks) and the Grounds Team worked unbelievably hard to prepare the racing surface, watering it 24 hours a day for a month. The rain on the Sunday before the meeting was gratefully received!
Q) What are you most looking forward to about the upcoming season?
A new season is always exciting and it will be fascinating to see how last season's two-year olds that ran progress and of course, you never know which super stars will grace the Goodwood Turf. We have also created a new five furlong, two-year old Fillies race to be run during the Qatar Goodwood Festival and I’m really excited to see how that will perform.
Q) Which is your favourite fixture?
That's a difficult question to answer as they all have their own identities and are special for different reasons. I suppose my favourite meetings would be the Qatar Goodwood Festival as we have some superb racing and the whole meeting has a very special atmosphere and history to it. I also love the two September meetings as we run some interesting races that can produce a good horse for the following season and with some late summer sun they're relaxed and hugely enjoyable.
Q) Which is your favourite horse that you have seen run at Goodwood?
Having helped here since 2008 I've been lucky to see some exceptional horses in the likes of Frankel, Kingman and last season's Gordon stakes winner Cross Counter. However, the horse that always stands out to me is Yeats, probably the greatest staying horse we're likely to see in a long time.
Q) What is your first racing memory?
Listening to the Grand National in the car in the pouring rain at Mousehole, Cornwall, while we were on holiday one spring. Aged, probably, four or five all I really wanted was the promised ice cream when the race was over but it seemed to go on forever!
Tickets for 2019 fixtures, including the Qatar Goodwood Festival, are now on sale at advance prices.