0 Racecourse groundsman retires after 25 years

picHead groundsman Tony Wootton will canter into retirement at Carlisle Racecourse on Wednesday.

Tony, who will be 70 in January, is stepping down next month after 25 years' loyal unbroken service at the city track.

Carlisle's final Flat fixture of 2012 on Wednesday afternoon, which features a horse owned by former England footballer Michael Owen, will be the last meeting for Tony as head groundsman.

Cockermouth-born Tony, who went to Wigton Secondary Modern School, is a well-known figure to thousands of Cumbrian racegoers through his work at the course.

He also featured in TV's Undercover Boss programme a couple of years ago, which led to him having the course's new £1 million hurdles track named after him last year.

Tony picked out the highlights of his quarter of a century of service at the racecourse, saying: "Having the track named after me was a very exciting day. I cut the ribbon and they gave me a private box, with food and drink for family and friends.

"We won Racecourse of the Year in 2003 for mixed or dual-purpose (Flat and National Hunt) racecourses, having been runner-up twice before. That was a thrill

"And then there was the Undercover Boss on Channel 4. I hadn't a clue what was going on or that it was my top boss from London working with me. He seemed to enjoy his day."

Looking back on the changes during his time at the track at Durdar, he added: "It was very run down before Jockey Club Racecourses took it over around the turn of the century. They have put a lot of money into it and made it into a proper leisure facility. People enjoy coming here now."

He will retire on October 6, exactly 25 years to the day since started work at Carlisle Racecourse. As head groundsman, he leads a team who maintain and prepare the racecourse's three tracks, including the Tony Wootton Hurdles Course for more than 20 meetings a year. The team includes his son Thomas, who is taking over from him.

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