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A day in the life of a Racing Secretary

20 July 2012

A day in the life of........ A Racing Secretary

The role of a Racing Secretary can vary enormously depending of the requirements of the trainer you are working for, and is far more involved than a standard secretarial position.

In general, most Racing Secretaries will be responsible for race entries and declarations, liaising with the BHA/Weatherbys and owners, booking jockeys, organising race transport, dealing with staff issues and staff contracts, placing orders and taking deliveries and ensuring health and safety procedures are complied with, as well as maintaining the smooth running of the office. Many Racing Secretaries will also administer the bookkeeping and payroll, and can also be required to ride out first lot before going into the office.

Being a Racing Secretary also requires excellent organisation and communication skills, you must be able to prioritise and manage your time effectively, be reliable and able to cope under pressure. Discretion and diplomacy are also extremely important.

We interviewed Racing Secretary Zara Stuart from Sir Mark Prescott, Bt.

How did you get involved in this role?

I came from an eventing background, and studied for a BSc in Equine Science at Hartpury College. I originally moved to Newmarket to work as an equine surgical nurse at Greenwood Ellis & Partners (now Newmarket Equine Hospital). From there I started riding out first lot for Chris Wall before work and very much caught the ‘racing bug’, so I decided to pursue an office based job within the industry. After working in the accounts department for Juddmonte Farms for a couple of years, the opening for Sir Mark came up and I was lucky enough to be the successful applicant, and I have now been at Heath House for six years.

What attracted you to the job?

My time riding out for Chris Wall, and at Juddmonte Farms, allowed me to develop a good basic understanding of horseracing, and wetted my appetite to become more directly involved in the day to day workings of a busy racing yard.

What is a typical day like for you?

I work a 5½ day week and am in the office at 7:30am Monday through to Saturday, I work a split day, finishing at 12:45pm and coming back at 3:30pm until 6pm, on Saturdays I work from 7:30am until I’ve finished all the jobs for the morning.

Sir Mark usually comes in form first lot shortly after I arrive each day, and we start by going through the entries and declarations, any jobs for the vet and the ‘bits and pieces’ for the day. Once he goes out with second lot I then get on with making all the necessary entries and declarations, jockey bookings, transport arrangements for runners, notifying owners of their entries, recording of results and anything else which may need to be done – this can be anything from replying to the morning’s post, to organising foreign runners, to movements of horses in and out of training, to dealing with the maintenance of staff houses etc.... As well as the more standard secretarial aspects, such as answering the phone and dealing with any general enquiries and correspondence.

My job is extremely varied, and no two days are ever the same. During the season doing the entries and organising our runners takes up the majority of my time, but out of season we are still kept busy with paperwork for the sales and yearlings, ownership registrations and preparations for the next season, so there is always plenty to keep me occupied!

What is your favourite part of the job?

I thrive on being busy, and really enjoy the buzz in the yard when we are having lots of runners, and when the winners are coming in it’s an obvious bonus too! I have also learnt a huge amount from Sir Mark, and am lucky to be working so closely with such a successful and well-renowned trainer.

Which part of your job would you like to change?

As my role with Sir Mark is entirely office based, the thing I miss the most is riding out, and having that regular contact with the horses themselves.

What is the career progression for someone in your role?

For me, the only real career progression I would consider at the moment would be to become a Racing Manager, but this would be more of a long term goal for the future.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of taking a similar role?

Racing Secretarial vacancies can be very few and far between, and are often filled through ‘word of mouth’ or ‘in house’, and most Racing Secretaries tend to stay in their position for a long time, so it can be quite difficult to get into. However, although it can be hard work and will never be your typical 9 to 5 position, the job can also be very rewarding at times, and I would definitely recommend that you keep trying if it’s something you would really like to do.

There is a very good Racing Secretaries course run by the British Racing School in Newmarket, which provides an excellent background and insight into the job, and I would advise anyone who is serious about becoming a Racing Secretary to contact the Racing School and look into it.

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