Posted on 2nd March 2022
Tom Ryall’s racing career started when he headed to the National Horseracing College in Doncaster to learn to ride a horse. After completing the three-month foundation course he landed a job working for Harry Fry where he stayed for seven seasons and progressed through the ranks to become Assistant Head Person.
Injury got Tom thinking about his future career path, and after using Racing Welfare’s Careers Advice & Training Service (CATS) and researching potential options on the Careers in Racing website he secured a job as trainee Clerk of the Course with The Jockey Club. Since then, he has gone on to become Clerk of the Course for Warwick & Nottingham Racecourses.
How have you progressed in your Clerking career thus far?
“My training was based at Haydock Park and overseen by their Clerk of the Course Kirkland Tellwright. When I got the role I had little turf management knowledge, but during my two years there I spent time shadowing different Clerks and groundstaff from within the JCR team and gaining the necessary qualifications.
“I then spent five months as a cover Clerk before an opportunity arose to become full-time Clerk at Nottingham & Warwick.”
How do you work alongside the groundstaff to prepare the racecourse for each fixture?
“I’m fortunate to have fantastic support from my two Head Groundmen, Joe Pogson at Nottingham and Guy Woodward at Warwick as well as our full-time and casual staff at each course.
“Preparation for each raceday starts as soon as the previous fixture is over, and what needs to be done can be different every time. Track repairs are always required, these typically take two to three days depending on the extent of the damage. As well as this the groundstaff are very much involved cleaning and preparation of the racecourse stables, maintaining the parade ring, lawns and flowers and repairing fences on the course.
“The weather forecast always plays a large role. In the run up to Warwick’s Kingmaker fixture cold temperatures and frosts were forecast and we were ready to cover the entire track in frost sheets. Fortunately, the colder temperatures didn’t quite materialise and we were able to ensure safe ground just by covering the take-off and landing areas around the jumps.”
One of the groundstaff team alongside Tom at Warwick is Luke Randall. Luke came into the industry as an apprentice grounds person. When asked what he enjoyed most about being groundstaff he said “There is always room to grow and better yourself within the industry and endless opportunities for further training. Spending your days outside and working towards an end product of producing the best racing surface is very rewarding. It can be tough at times with weather conditions, but we all love a challenge.
“I would highly encourage anyone to get into the industry especially within horse racing as it’s a unique sport when it comes to turf management.”
Article via Racecourse Association