Saturday was the final raceday to be presided over by Richard Osgood, Newbury’s longstanding Clerk of the Course.
Richard was born and bred on the racecourse site, becoming assistant to his father Frank, who was part of the management team from 1947 until he retired in 1990, estates manager and then clerk of the course.
He has been part of the team at Newbury since 1979, while the Osgood family has been involved with Newbury for 99 years, with his great uncle John Osgood becoming the manager in 1919.
A presentation was made to Richard Osgood before racing by Dominic Burke, chairman of Newbury Racecourse, while the jockeys formed a Guard of Honour.
Osgood said: “It is both a great and sad day for me.
“I have said to everybody that the frost covers have to be my proudest achievement, bearing in mind we covered the whole course and that was the first time it has been done in Britain. It involved 24 acres of covers and we saved the meeting. Now it is commonplace.
“I started here on the ground as estates manager and didn’t become a clerk of the course until 2001.
“During that time, we have gone through much better training than ever before and after each race meeting now, you see a decent course with grass. When I first started, you finished a meeting with the course like a ploughed field and you would literally get in back just in time for the next meeting.
“Various things help us now, including a gang of treaders who tread everything back and we have the course back in shape in two days now, rather than three weeks. We know about what we are doing now more than ever before.
“My family’s association with Newbury began in 1919 when my great uncle started here as manager and secretary. He stayed here until about 1956. In 1947 my father started here and stayed until the early 1990s. I joined in 1979, so we have all overlapped a bit.
“We used to live in a white house next to the stables after I was born. We used to enjoy that. As a child, I ran around and rode my bike here with my friends.
“I can remember back to the day after the Bradford fire (1985). I had the fireman on the doorstep on the Sunday morning asking me about what we would do with our stands – they were lovely traditional stands, but made of wood and had to come down. So, plans were made almost straight away about how we could develop the stands.
“It has been a major upheaval. The capital we have raised from selling land for housing development has been pushed back into the racecourse. My board has always said that any capital raised from selling land for housing should go into the infrastructure of the racecourse.
“My sister died two years ago and that made me think. I am not getting any younger and when you are working long hours nearly every day, I got to the stage where I thought I should slow down. The only way I am going to do that is to actually stop and then just do bits and bobs.
“I have not missed a meeting in 39 years. It will take time to wean myself off it. but life goes on. I have small grandchild who will need looking after when my daughter wants to do other things and I am also going to be freer to play more golf.”
Paying tribute, champion trainer Nicky Henderson, whose local course Newbury is, said: “We have been going as long as each other so know we each other quite well! We have walked this track together so many times.
“Richard has been a spectacular man and brilliant for Newbury. He has seen the racecourse through a lot of development and has always been very meticulous with his going reports – we all trusted him implicitly.
“It has been great fun and Richard has always been such a lovely person to be able to talk to. He always rings us the day before every meeting and is an example to everybody.
“Racing is in his family’s bones. His father Frank was here before. I will never forget the day the fleeces went down for the first time ever on a racecourse (in March, 2006) – I think Richard got them from a vegetable grower! We spent all night putting them down and raced the next day. Nowadays, covering racecourses is something we expect and it goes back to that Friday night. He really was a pioneer.”
Newbury’s new Clerk of the Course is Keith Ottesen, who has been shadowing Richard Osgood since August.