Newbury's Betway Challow Hurdle Day: first race will be named in honour of departing Clerk of the Course Richard Osgood
It will truly be the end of an era at Newbury on Saturday, December 29, Betway Challow Hurdle Day, when Clerk of the Course Richard Osgood officiates at the track for the final time - 99 years after the first member of the Osgood family joined the racecourse staff.
To mark the day, the first race is being renamed in his honour as the Betway 'Farewell to Richard Osgood' Juvenile Hurdle.
Richard was born and bred on the racecourse site, becoming assistant to his father Frank, who was part of the management team - including estates manager and clerk of the course - from 1947 until he retired in 1990. And his great uncle, John Osgood, was racecourse manger in 1919.
Recalling memories over the last 40 years at the racecourse, Richard says he has seen all the outstanding races at Newbury and it will be with fond sadness that he steps away from the place that has been not just a home but his workplace since 1979:
"I was born on the place. My mother and father lived here and I have lived onsite for 56 years. As a child I was on my bicycle mucking around the stands. I was born and bred here - it was a fantastic childhood."
During his time at Newbury, Richard saw many of the greats grace the track among them the legendary Arkle, who carried off the Hennessy Gold Cup in 1964 and 1965: "Arkle was my hero as child. He was the horse I always watched when I was young. Some of things he did were amazing. I always followed him and Mill House and on the Flat there was Mill Reef and Brigadier Gerard."
He has memories too of more recent stars to perform heroics at Newbury: "I have got to say the way Denman won his second Hennessy was one of the best I've seen, but I was also lucky enough to see Frankel win here in the Lockinge, plus Hawk Wing in the same race and also watch Nashwan work. The Major [trainer Dick Hern] used to like to bring Nashwan down here for his final gallop before a big race. I just loved the way the horse moved with such a flowing action."
Richard's enduring legacy came in the aftermath of the 2006 Super Saturday meeting, which was the victim of a late abandonment on the day of the fixture because the course was frozen: "We had covered all the take-offs, landings and vulnerable areas as usual, temperatures were rising and the frost was coming out of the ground, but then we got cloud and temperatures dropped again."
"We had an inspection and it wasn't raceable. We wanted to give it half an hour longer, but racing was called off when everyone was there. We lost the day but what it did do was make us think about things."
With similar weather threatening the next meeting in March, Richard and Mark Kershaw (then managing director) took the decision try to cover the whole course and invested in fleece covers, similar to those used by fruit farmers. As a result of their success, the technique has been copied by other major courses.
"That," Richard says, " has got to be my proudest achievement. I had letters from all over the world and from people who didn't think it could be done."
"Simon Claisse was on the phone from Cheltenham asking how we had done it. All the other clerks then had to look into it. We completely changed the way things were done."
, the family connection will not be completely severed: "I have immensely enjoyed almost 40 years here and have been incredibly lucky to have played a small part in some highly memorable racing moments."Richard hands over to Keith Ottesen on January 1, 2019, but with his wife Cilla continuing at Newbury as membership secretary
"I have been fortunate enough to have met and worked with so many brilliant people. It will feel sad to be leaving, but I know I put everything into it and have left my mark."
Julian Thick is Chief Executive of Newbury Racecourse: "It would be hard to find someone more dedicated to Newbury than Richard over nearly 40 years."
"I would like to thank him for all his hard work and wish him the very best in the future. Thanks to Betway for allowing us to rename the first race in his honour on Challow Day - which will mark the end of an era."
Betway Challow Hurdle Day takes place on Saturday, December 29, with seven competitive races on the card, featuring Newbury's only G1 Jump race - the Betway Challow Hurdle worth £45,000. Gates open at 10.00am with the first race at 12.05pm. For further information or to book tickets visit www.newburyracecourse.co.uk