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A day in the life of a...Head Groundsman

22 October 2015

About Me

My name is Carl Tonks and I work as Head Groundsman at Ripon Racecourse.

I enjoyed the atmosphere and family feel of the work. I was at agricultural college and realised the farming industry was not suited by me, so I used my tractor driving experience to join the industry, starting in the early 1990's.

I started my career in racing as a raceday casual (sample unit security officer), then becoming a fulltime groundsman with Jockey Club Racecourse gaining IOG certificates through the years. Being in a small team means you get the opportunity to try many different jobs from stable cleaning to camera/photo finish operator. I started my position at Ripon in March 2010.

About The Job

My day starts at 8am with a team debrief, discussing if anything has been noticed overnight (damage, etc) and job allocations for the day. It also includes dealing with orders and general paperwork (wages/reports/schedules) along with the dealing of issues as they arise, which will also include non-racing events, building maintenance contracts, servicing and repairs.

I normally finish around 6pm when securing the site, and fortunately my position is housed on-site (24hrs) to deal with any issues as and when they arise.

Diversity and the ability to adapt to the situation are crucial in my role however depending on the size of the racecourse you work at, the parameters of the position vary. At a smaller course like Ripon, you are the “GO TO” person, so everything comes to you and you need to be able to deal with a range of issues from leaking taps to security.

With racecourses now finding other revenue streams you need to be more mindful of dealing with non-racing clients too (fishing clubs/caravan rallies/sports events/weddings/conferences, etc.).

I enjoy the variety and challenge of each day and the prestige of being one of only a handful of Racecourse Head Groundsmen in the country. The horse racing industry is part of my extended family which I think most of us feel and why some of us get so passionate about it, whatever part of the industry you’re in.

I am currently very happy with my position having achieved the goals I set out however self-improvement in the role to become better is always a driving force. The natural progression from my position would be Clerk of Course and into regulatory body as racecourse inspector.


I began at Agricultural College starting in the early 1990's gaining various Agricultural qualifications before becoming a full-time groundsman gaining Institute of Groundsmanship certificates throughout the years.

My Advice

For anybody considering a career within racing I would suggest volunteering to do anything. Experience is key. Knowledge of any aspect of the industry is useful when dealing with people, and an understanding of their position is helpful in negotiating positive out-comes and resolutions. 

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