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EQUESTRIAN Course history


The first recorded horseraces in the Ripon area took place in 1664 on Bondgate Green. Over the next 236 years, several other venues were used to stage race meetings. Indeed, during one meeting in 1723, Ripon racegoers witnessed horseracing history, when they watched the first ever race exclusively for lady riders.


However, none of the historic venues had long-lasting success, and it took the opening of the current course on Boroughbridge Road, in 1900, to establish Ripon as a regular flat racing venue and it has been an important fixture on the racing scene ever since.


The very first meeting at the modern course was held on the sixth of August 1900 and, since that time, the racecourse has developed so well, it is now regarded as the sporting flagship of this medieval market town.


Well respected within the industry and a popular choice with Yorkshire based owners, Ripon earned the title of ‘Best Small Racecourse in the North’ as voted by the Racegoers Club in 2011, 2014 and 2015.


With total prize money well in excess of a million pounds, the fixture list at Ripon incorporates some outstanding races. In August alone, the course stages two major highlights. The William Hill Great St Wilfred Handicap is a six-furlong sprint which is named after the town’s patron saint, and due to the large number of runners, and the vagaries of the draw, it quite often requires divine inspiration to select the winner. Later in the month, On August bank holiday Monday, Ripon stages its Listed EBF Champion Two-Year-Old Trophy which often attracts leading young horses from major stables.


Staging only flat racing, horses run right-handed over an undulating oval course measuring one mile five furlongs in circumference. There is a sharp bend into the home straight, and the straight is one of the longest in the country, being five furlongs in length. The last furlong of the run-in is noticeably uphill with undulations and on softer going stamina becomes very important. On firm or good going, statistically, at least, the sprint course favours low drawn horses.


started at the point where Wolverhampton was changing the course from a national hunt track to an all-weather one (which I think made it the third all-weather track in the country at the time). Nigel Thornton, Head Groundsman at the time, was offered the same position at Epsom Downs and, not long after he went there, he asked me to join him. I then spent fifteen years at Epsom, working in various positions - predominantly on the track, but I did spend four years with the ranger services. The racecourse is in the middle of the ‘downs’ alongside a golf course and training grounds. It was a good education base for me, and I learned a lot in my time there. Many of the other lads I worked with at the time have gone on to become Head Groundsmen at other racecourses around the country. I eventually realised I wanted to progress my career, so decided to go on a few management courses. This led me to apply for various head groundsman positions and, eventually, I was lucky enough to get the job here at Ripon - I’m now in my tenth season.” I asked Carl if he enjoys the job and


what are the challenges he faces. “Yes, I love my job. It’s very varied and every day is different. What you find, at smaller racecourses, is the Head Groundsman position encompasses pretty much everything, so I’m responsible for the maintenance of the track, gardens, lawns, parade ground, the lake, car parks, maintenance on the buildings, and managing contractors … the list goes on.” Helping Carl look after the racecourse is David White (64), Groundsman, with sixteen years’ service; Martin Johnson (52), Groundsman - nine years’ service; John Ireland (59), Groundsman - twelve years’ service; David Dalton (60), Gardener - forty- four years’ service and Ted Pyman (53), Cleaner - ten years’ service. Carl also has around ten casual staff helping to put out the benches, bins and various other jobs before race day. This rises to thirty on a race day carrying out additional jobs such as treading back hoof marks on the track. The day after the race, he generally has around twenty casuals going around the track with soil and seed.


116 PC August/September 2019


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