- James Hartnett, a nominee for Most Improved New Member of the Team Award at the 2022 Racecourse Groundstaff Awards discusses his game-changing career move to Chepstow Racecourse.
- The RCA joins with the Grounds Management Association (GMA) to celebrate #GroundsWeek
The Racecourse Association (RCA) is proud to once again be joining the Grounds Management Association (GMA) to celebrate #GroundsWeek, a campaign dedicated to recognising the hard work and commitment of grounds teams across the country.
The theme of #GroundsWeek 2023 is training and education. Racecourses across Britain are blessed with highly experienced and knowledgeable grounds teams, but at the same time they are always looking to welcome and nurture new talent. To recognise this the RCA, introduced a new category at the 2022 Racecourse Groundstaff Awards, Most Improved New Member of the Team Award.
Regarding the award, RCA Raceday Services Manager Holly Cook said "The Most Improved New Member of the Team Award was introduced to celebrate, reward and recognise those who are new to the industry and encourage them to continue their career journey in British horseracing. Those nominated for the Award have shown dedication and determination to considerably improve their skills, and a willingness to learn more."
One nominee for this award was James Hartnett who joined the staff at Chepstow Racecourse in the spring of 2021. Joining the Chepstow team in his early 30s was a "game changer" for James. By his own admission he didn't always enjoy the traditional education system, so finding an outdoor job with a varied, yet challenging workload was the perfect fit.
James quickly impressed his colleagues at Chepstow with his commitment and enthusiasm, no task appeared too difficult and he displayed a thirst for knowledge and eagerness to develop and learn. Keen to foster his talent and enthusiasm Chepstow rewarded James with a place on the GMA Level II Turf Management Course in Newmarket, which he passed with a distinction.
The five-day course, which has been developed by the GMA in conjunction with the RCA covers key areas in the theory behind maintaining a racecourse surface including pesticides, tools, rooting media and its construction, evaluation of nutrient analysis records, assessment and identification of grass species and health and safety requirements. Participants also get to visit the gallops and Newmarket Racecourse and have sessions around racetrack management including BHAGI compliance, raceday equipment, setting up a bypass and a flip start.
Ron Mason, Chepstow's Estates Manager, said "James arrived at Chepstow a little ahead of me and was clearly one of the leading lights in my new team. To find someone so keen to learn and progress has been most rewarding, and he encourages the others with his enthusiasm and work ethic.
"I am sure James will grow into a first-class Head Groundsman in time and I will ensure he gets the training to take him on his journey."
Libby O'Flaherty, Chepstow Clerk of the Course commented "James continues to impress with his efforts, especially with all the irrigation work he undertook throughout the summer, I am confident that with his ability, commitment and hard-work he will continue to develop and remain an integral part of the Chepstow team for many years to come."
James said "I love being part of the team here at Chepstow Racecourse as we are such a close-knit team. Despite what challenges mother nature throws at us we still strive to produce some of the best racing ground and obstacles and that's what really motivates me, along with the diversity of tasks we perform.
"I am thankful that I am always strongly encouraged, driven and given the tools to progress my skillset, knowledge and to be a better groundsman that is prepared for the next step in my career when that time comes."
If you'd like to find out more about a career in racecourse turf management you can contact the RCA here and visit the training section of the GMA's website here.