Racecourse trio 100 year celebration

Wetherby Racecourse groundsmen, from left, Ian Ward, Ian Foster (seated) and  Neal Kidd. (S)

Wetherby Racecourse groundsmen, from left, Ian Ward, Ian Foster (seated) and Neal Kidd. (S)

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Wetherby Racecourse is celebrating another milestone in its racing history with a combined employment total of 100 years for three groundstaff.

Ian Ward, Neal Kidd and Ian Foster all reached the impressive record this year with a busy season ahead of them as the racing season gets underway.

Head groundsman, Ian Ward, 54, is the longest serving staff member with 40 years’ service.

The 54-year-old who has lived in Wetherby since he was five, said “I’ve always enjoyed my time at Wetherby Racecourse and could never imagine doing anything else.

“There’s nothing better than at the end of a raceday when the crowds have gone.

“We all sit down to have a pint before we start several hours of clearing away and locking down”.

Ian’s links with the racecourse started when he was 11 years old, helping the then head groundsman, Cyril Frost on his small holding behind the racecourse.

Within a couple of years he was working on racedays as Number Board Boy climbing the rickety steps to the numbers board to chalk up the winning horses and lengths.

At 16 he became a full time member of the ground staff team and in 1983 became head groundsman after Cyril passed away, a position he has held ever since.

Joining Ian in their long lengths of service include 48-year-old Neal Kidd, born in Clifford, where he still lives today, and Ian Foster, 47, or “little Ian” as he is known at the racecourse from Boston Spa.

Both of them came to the racecourse in their teens and have remained ever since.

The Ian’s work together on the track cutting grass, maintaining the grounds and steeplechase fences, while Neal’s is the racecourse “hurdles man” with his role to predominantly repair or make hurdles.

To celebrate their long service, the racecourse will be installing an official plaque and mounted photograph of the 100 team in the Millennium Stand on the first day of the autumn racing calendar at Wetherby Racecourse on Wednesday, October 16.

The first meeting, on October 16, is a seven day race programme and is the backdrop to the 23rd annual charity meeting in aid of Spinal Research.