Life as a racing secretary

  • A career as a racing secretary involves working for a trainer, dealing with the administration of running a racing yard, although its exact format varies from yard to yard. Some big yards have more than one secretary.

    Some secretaries ride out with the first lot, while others, like Joline Saunders, racing secretary to trainer Richard Phillips, head straight for the office each morning.

    “I get in at around 7.45am,” says Joline. “Declarations have to be made by 10am, so I find out about the ground, the other horses and the available jockeys. Then Richard decides which horses to declare.”

    Next, Joline makes entries for the midday deadline, liaises with owners, updates the website and talks to yard staff about travel arrangements. Other tasks include answering the phone, dealing with correspondence with Richard, setting up sponsors, owners and horse names with Weatherbys, doing VAT returns, wages, health and safety work and ordering feed, haylage and veterinary supplies.

    Michael Jarvis’s racing secretary Jim Hiner has been in the job 36 years. “You have to be good at watching out for the time, remembering things and keeping records,” he says.

    Joline says the best part of her job is the variety and meeting people: “I love going to Cheltenham, where we have a hospitality marquee. The job involves long hours and you have to be married to it. The worst part is when the horses aren’t running well and things like having to tell the owner if we lose a horse, but that doesn’t happen often.”

    Joline and Jim say that many jobs are filled through word of mouth, although some are advertised in H&H or the Racing Post.

    “I’d recommend going to a big trainer with several secretaries for your first job, so you have someone to help you,” says Joline.

    Traditionally secretaries often moved from yardwork into the office, while the British Racing School now runs a two-day racing secretary course, which costs £50.

    Using guest speakers from across the industry, the course covers subjects such as the structure of racing, health and safety, dealing with employees, the rules of racing and the role of Weatherbys. The school is planning some advanced racing secretaries courses this year.

    Contact the British Racing School (tel: 01638 665103) or visit www.brs.org.uk

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