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A Day in the life of...a Raceday Official

16 February 2016

About Me

My name is Hugh Barclay. I was born in Prestwick, Scotland and after attending Allow School and Belmont Academy, I worked on my father’s farm just outside Ayr. I can remember always being involved with horses and developed a passion for riding.

I began riding in Point to Points and was soon an Amateur Rider.  I moved to Ireland in the seventies to pursue my career with Brian Lusk where I stayed for about six months and rode a few winners.  I returned to Scotland and joined KLM Royal Dutch airlines in an office-based job but I soon began to realise that I missed horses and working outdoors.

In 1980 I was fortunate enough to be offered a job as Starter with the Jockey Club and I have been there ever since.

About The Job

The job involves travelling around the UK to various racecourses to start both flat and national hunt races and sometimes even the odd pony race!  I have started races at all but one racecourse in the UK and the ultimate thrill was starting the Grand National this year. 

I liaise with other racecourse officials, trainers, jockeys and anyone else involved in the daily routine of racing.  I have to discuss the starts ahead, the draw of horses, arrange stalls tests and make sure everyone is in position before proceeding to start a race especially the Advanced Flag Operator.

As part of my job, I manage the team of Advanced Flat Operators including arranging their work schedules.


Although there are no specific qualifications to become a Starter, a good education and a solid background working with horses is a must. You must be an excellent communicator, a team player and have respect for both the power of the horse and the anticipation of the jockey.

My Advice

If you want to get into the racing industry, a Foundation Course (NVQ Level 2) is a great way to start, if you are just leaving school.  Its hard work but well worth it.  The experience you will get from working directly with horses will be beneficial throughout your career.

I would also suggest getting as much work experience as you can.  Gain knowledge from others with more years in the business and shadow staff in all areas of the racing fraternity.

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