The Groundsman

May 2013

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16 IOG BEST PRACTICE the Groundsman May 2013 Huntingdon's high standards Colin Hoskins talks to head groundsman, Shaun Reilly, and discovers how a programme of continual improvement has raised standards at Huntington Racecourse By: Colin Hoskins haun Reilly won't forget Christmas Day 2009 in a hurry, and nor will his wife, Jennifer, for that matter. Instead of enjoying a romantic Champagne breakfast, during which Shaun was planning to propose marriage, he and his fiancé spent the day repairing a snow-damaged leaking roof on a hospitality box at Huntingdon Racecourse so that race goers could use the room for the Boxing Day race meeting. "In the event, after we'd fixed the problem, I got down on one knee while we were having a cup of tea," he reflects. S "It's a good job she's so understanding." While this is perhaps not a typical example of a groundsman's devotion to duty, it does demonstrate the passion and drive of people like Shaun who day in, day out leave no stone unturned to ensure that everything is perfect for events at their sports venues. And while the spectators to that festive race meeting obviously had no idea what Shaun had been doing 24 hours earlier, they undoubtedly could see the results of his efforts on the course – an expertise that last year won Shaun the IOG John Visit for more information and digital editions Deere Professional Horse Racing Groundsman of the Year Award. Ceiling repairs aside, Shaun sums up the job: "When the alarm clock goes off at 4am for me to get to the course to start watering, and I return home at 7pm, I often think to myself 'why am I doing this'? But all the early starts and late finishes are worth it when it comes to race days and I get the feedback and compliments from the jockeys and trainers on how well the course rides, as well as comments from the public on how good the overall site looks."

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