After 48 years working at Wetherby, Ian Ward is entering the final furlong of his long and distinguished career working at the Racecourse, having announced his intention to retire at the end of this season.
Ian started working on the groundstaff at Wetherby in 1975, under the tutelage of the then Head Groundsman, Cyril Frost, working as part of a team of six men preparing the course for the race meetings, which included the iconic Christmas and Easter race meetings.
At the time of starting his employment, the Racecourse Chairman was Nick Wilmot-Smith and Ian’s first Clerk of the Course was Major John Moon.
In April 1983, Cyril Frost unfortunately passed away, after which Ian was promoted to the position of Head Groundsman (or Course Foreman, as it was at the time) on 1st July 1983, a position that he has held from that day to this, with the current season being his 40th as Head Groundsman.
It was around the time of Ian’s promotion in 1983 that two additional members of staff joined the Wetherby team. Those two young men were Neal Kidd and Ian Foster, both of whom still work here at Wetherby with Ian and, along with the rest of our grounds team, they work tirelessly, in all weathers, to provide the best ground conditions possible for horses to run on, as well as constantly striving to make improvements to the racecourse itself and the surrounding facilities.
Whilst the team around Ian has been reasonably constant, Ian has seen many changes at Wetherby over the years, such as the replacement of concrete posts and wooden running rails with plastic rail, colour changes of the obstacles from white to orange (and ironically now back to white again!) The construction of the Weighing Room & Administration building in 1995, the Wetherby Millennium Stand in 1999, the Bramham Hall in 2007, and the Millennium West Stand in 2017. The loss of 2.2 acres of the bottom bend and the subsequent realignment of the home straight in 2005 to accommodate the three-lane A1(M) Motorway and the introduction of Flat racing in 2015 are some of the more noteworthy changes that Ian has seen during his time at Wetherby.
During his 48 years at Wetherby, Ian has worked under only two Racecourse Chairman Nick Wilmot-Smith and John Sanderson, and alongside seven Secretary / Racecourse Managers and seven Clerks of the Course.
We were delighted to be able to celebrate Ian’s incredible tenure as Head Groundsman on Thursday 6th April, Ian’s final Jump fixture at Wetherby. Ian is not retiring until the end of the season in July, but we wanted to mark his wonderful career with a Steeplechase race at one of his beloved Jumps meetings. The Jump Jockeys were also able to thank Ian with a presentation led by Champion Jockey Brian Hughes.
On behalf of all past and present colleagues, and everyone else associated with Wetherby Racecourse, we offer our heartfelt congratulations to Ian on what has been a remarkable career and very much hope that he & Pauline both enjoy their retirement when the day comes in July!