It only seems like yesterday that many point-to-point courses were contemplating holding duck racing ahead of horseracing. But as is often the case at this time of year, the sun has shone and we are now seeing a rapid going transition and the word “firm” creeping into ground descriptions.
This can create anxiety for owners and trainers, and can often mean horses arrive at the races but do not leave the horsebox. Fast ground requires jockeys to ride with a different mindset and often necessitates a change in tactics. It can also cause an unwanted headache for clerks of the course — to water, or not to water?
The answer to that question is a difficult one. Some courses do not have the ability to water, so quick ground and low field numbers can be expected and are accepted. Courses that do have access to a water source and who can utilise it effectively are often rewarded with plentiful runners.
Big fields and competitive races draw crowds and make the whole event more worthwhile and, hopefully, turn an all-important profit for the hunt.
The role of clerk of the course is key, yet they all too often have a thankless task and certainly fall into the “unsung hero” category.
Birch cutting months in advance, fence placement weeks ahead, watering days before to turf replacement post-racing are all tasks within the remit of a clerk of the course. All together they amount to a significant amount of time, effort and organisation.
If all goes smoothly, very rarely is there any praise, yet if there are any issues, then criticism can be quick to follow.
It is very easy to turn up at the start of the day and walk away at the end of the day and give little thought to who has prepared the spectacle, but gratitude should be given to the unsung heroes.