Just days before Ripon Racecourse’s biggest raceday of the season – Great St Wilfrid Day, I caught up with Operations and Marketing Executive, Jonathan Mullin and Clerk Of The Course, James Hutchinson, to pose to them a few questions about the beautiful North Yorkshire track.
The hot topic of conversation at the moment is the UK fixture list and racing’s current funding model.
How are Ripon dealing with the current economic climate and what kind of impact would it have on your racecourse if you were unfortunate enough to lose any fixtures?
JM: I think it is clear to see that there is too much racing but a wholesale slashing of the fixture list would have major short term consequences not just on racecourses but also on smaller trainers and owners and consequently on stable staff.
Six races per card as standard with potential for one race to divide to create a seven race card could be a happy medium and no fixtures would be lost.
We have to be flexible but it’s difficult to say exactly what impact losing a fixture would have without knowing which fixture but we have to be prepared for all scenarios.
You’re famous for being “Yorkshire’s Garden Racecourse” but how do all those fantastic blooms and legions of hanging baskets all come together in such a synchronised manner?
You must have a big team of green fingered horticulturalists working there?
JM: Incredibly we don’t have a big team at all, we have a small team of four full time groundsmen, one of whom is responsible for gardening duties.
We grow most of the flowers ourselves and the team do a great job of making sure the racecourse looks as bright and beautiful as possible through the summer months.
Not so many people are aware that there is a small lake in the middle of the racecourse that is brimming with carp? I believe there is a fishing club too. I take it they don’t fish during racing?
JM: It’s a reasonably big lake, about 3½ furlongs in length and we have Ripon Piscatorial Society members use it for fishing, not during racing of course.
The lake is also used by swimmers and jet ski club members and is home to an array of wildlife with a nature reserve sitting just behind the racecourse.
What is the name of the oldest race still held at Ripon and how long has it been going?
JM: The Great St Wilfrid is our oldest race, albeit the race hasn’t always been the 6f cavalry charge it is now.
It has been run over a variety of trips but it’s now fairly well established as a 6f handicap.
Great St Wilfrid Day is of course your feature raceday and the busiest Saturday in August for online horse racing betting.
What has been the average crowd size on that particular Saturday over the years? Do any of the other fixtures even come close to it?
JM: Great St Wilfrid Day (August) and Go Racing in Yorkshire Saturday in July would be our two busiest days.
Both have exceeded 10,000 in the past but pre Covid the usual was somewhere between 9k and 10k, depending on a number of factors including weather and which football teams are playing at home on the day!
I’ve seen the odd overseas jockey ride at Ripon, for example Vincent Ho from Hong Kong, but are you aware of any others?
On a similar theme, has there ever been any overseas horse’s racing at Ripon, say from other horse racing jurisdictions such as France or Germany for example?
JM: Yuga Kawada won a race here in 2018 on a horse called Off Piste, trained by Tim Easterby. I think that’s all since I’ve been here, unless the likes of Silvestre De Sousa and Gianluca Sanna count?
James and I have racked our brains and we can’t think of any overseas representatives but we’d be very happy to hear otherwise!
In your opinion where is the best place to eat on the racecourse and why?
JM: A difficult one for me to answer as I’m always so busy on racedays I don’t have time to eat.
Our Club Restaurant always gets rave reviews but equally I like the relaxed vibe of the Fountains Café which also serves some excellent dishes. The fish and chip shop isn’t too bad either!
How many horses in total can the racecourse stable and is there any overnight accommodation available for the staff if required?
JM: Our stabling capacity is 100 and we do have some stable staff accommodation.
It’s not a hotel like staff might be used to elsewhere and it’s only really in use a couple of nights a year but we try to be as accommodating as we can with overnight requests when we do get them.
Who is the most famous person you are aware of, past or present, to have graced the Ripon paddock or grandstands?
JM: Well Sir Henry Cecil had his first winner here and was partial to a visit. Mike Ashley (former Newcastle United owner) was here earlier this season and Bez from the Happy Mondays paid us a visit last year.
There are probably lots of others but to be honest unless a ‘famous’ person was famous because of racing or football I’m likely to walk past them without a clue who they are!
In a brief sentence or two, complete the following “You should come and visit us at Ripon Racecourse because ...”
JM: You should come and visit us at Ripon Racecourse because we’re reasonably priced, it’s a nice relaxed atmosphere to enjoy racing and if you have little ones our Family Days are superb value.
If this interview has whetted your appetite for having a punt on the horse racing at Ripon, or you’d still much rather have a bet on Cheltenham, then please check out all our early 888sport betting odds here.
- Check out our horse racing tips on the biggest meetings and racedays here...
*Credit for all of the photos in this article belongs to Steve Mullington*