Fourteen of the UK's top race tracks will be echoing to the sound of thoroughbred engine horsepower, following a new five year deal between Jockey Club Racecourses and John Deere.
The UK's top tractor manufacturer has been appointed official supplier of utility tractors to Jockey Club Racecourses, the largest racecourse group in the UK, with tracks from Exeter in the south to Carlisle in the north. The group stages many of the country's most iconic races and events, including the Grand National and The Cheltenham Festival, as well as four of the five Flat classics.
Jockey Club Racecourses is unique in that it is the only racecourse owning group which is committed to reinvesting its profits into enhancing racecourse facilities and increasing levels of prize money. Previously known as the Racecourse Holdings Trust, the group was formed in 1964 with the primary objective of securing and protecting racecourses, including many historic tracks that could otherwise have been lost to racing.
Six of the courses will be receiving new John Deere utility tractors this year, two to Newmarket and one each to Carlisle, Epsom Downs, Haydock Park, Kempton Park and Sandown Park. Further models will then be delivered over time to the other courses in the group, including Aintree, Cheltenham, Exeter, Huntingdon, Market Rasen, Nottingham, Warwick and Wincanton.
Many of the tractors have been specified with a front linkage and pto for operating front mounted articulated rotary mowers, such as those made by Trimax and Lastec, as the bulk of the tractors' workload will be mowing the racetracks and other grass areas.
"We had an ageing tractor fleet across the country that really needed replacing, but the main difficulty was that we had no effective replacement policy in place across our group of 14 racecourses," explains Ian Sidgwick, the Jockey Club Racecourses Group Purchasing Manager, who joined the organisation in February this year and is based at Cheltenham.
"After quite a difficult process of consultation, we chose to work with John Deere as this was generally felt to be the brand that was most acceptable to all the clerks of the course, with the best choice of tractor models to fit all our requirements.
"We have now managed to establish a sensible tractor replacement policy within the group for the first time, at an advantageous price, which is just as important. We expect to see our annual maintenance costs reduce considerably, by operating the latest models with local dealer service and support. Another advantage of the relationship is that John Deere is able to offer us a wide range of other groundscare machines, if required."
Ian Sidgwick, Jockey Club Racecourses Group Purchasing Manager (left) and John Deere's national account manager Joedy Ibbotson with a couple of thoroughbreds at Cheltenham - triple Gold Cup winner Best Mate's bronze statue and a John Deere large chassis compact utility tractor.