Newmarket: Dedicated team work behind-the-scenes to put on July horseracing festival

Final preparations are taking place for the Piper-Heidsieck July Festival which takes place on The J

Final preparations are taking place for the Piper-Heidsieck July Festival which takes place on The July horse racing course in Newmarket between Thursday 11 and Saturday 13 July. - Credit: Archant

The race track is in pristine condition, the flowers are dazzling and the champagne is cooling on ice.

Final preparations are taking place for the Piper-Heidsieck July Festival which takes place on The J

Final preparations are taking place for the Piper-Heidsieck July Festival which takes place on The July horse racing course in Newmarket between Thursday 11 and Saturday 13 July. - Credit: Archant

On the surface, it may seem like a magic wand has been waved and Newmarket’s July course is yet again ready for the Piper-Heidsieck July Festival.

But the reality is a dedicated team of behind-the-scenes staff are working around the year – just like for all their flagship race meetings – to prepare for the three-day event, which opens tomorrow with the Boylesports Ladies’ Day.

Martyn Heyes, 59, certainly knows what it takes to get the course ready for the public after almost 41 years in the job.

All-year round he is involved in maintenance, doing everything from decorating to moving sponsorship boards, but on race days he is based in the parade ring.


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He said: “It’s unbelievable what goes on in the background, if you just think of the logistics.

“When we finish on Thursday night this place has to be turned round for the following morning: the litter has to be picked, the grass has to be cut, the course has to be watered, we have to change signage, food and drink has to come in, the place has to be cleaned.

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“It goes on through the night and if the weather is good it’s in our favour.”

The grandfather-of-three – who has only had five days off sick in 41 years – said he just loved the buzz of the race days. “In fact the worst part of the job is when we finish [the racing season] in November.

“It’s like somebody walking up and putting the lights out. It’s not a gentle let-down,” he said.

Regional marketing manager Clair Bryant, 33, whose job involves putting on the Fashion at the Festival event, said when she used to come to Ladies’ Day at Newmarket when she was younger she never thought she would end up working there.

“Until I worked at the racecourse I did not realise how much hard work and effort goes into this place to get it up and running.

“It’s a phenomenal amount of hard work and one thing I will always say – and there’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears – we do it together as a team.

“We are very much like a family and work hard together.”

She added: “We have our first planning meeting for 2014 in a couple of weeks. We have to be that on it. It’s hard and fast in this job, but it’s rewarding.”

Part of the job of course clerk Michael Prosser is making sure the racing surface is immaculate.

While last year extensive rainfall brought a fresh set of challenges, this year the warm weather means irrigation is key.

“We have obviously been irrigating the racing surface extensively and will continue to do so in the build-up to Thursday, after racing on Thursday and the likelihood is the same on Friday until after midnight again.”

Gemma Charrington, 31, regional head of operations, and her team may one minute be dealing with a burst water pipe and putting up a gazebo the next.

While she enjoys her job, she said cannot relax on race days. “Our responsibility is making sure everybody is safe on site. We are constantly monitoring the crowd for drunk, loutish behaviour.”

Tomorrow is the Boylesports Ladies’ Day, Friday is the Abu Dhabi Gentlemen’s Day and Saturday is the Darley July Cup Day.

For more information visit www.newmarketracecourses.co.uk

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