Redcar Racecourse’s new boss positive about the future

Friday 10 April 2009

SADDLED with debt, an ongoing location wrangle and the credit crunch biting, it would be understandable if Redcar Racecourse’s new boss felt the going was a bit heavy.

But not a bit of it. Amy Fair has racing in her blood and is infectiously enthusiastic about the track’s prospects.

Born and bred near Chester racecourse, and having grown up in a farming family, she’s loved horses and racing for as long as she can remember.

And her career reflects that love. After graduating from Cirencester Agricultural College, she joined the course at Market Rasen in 2001 as sales and marketing executive.

She recalls: “It was a baptism of fire, because it was at the height of foot and mouth and we got a lot of negative press. I went through three pairs of shoes in as many weeks because the disinfectant we had to stand in rotted them.”

Then came stints at Newmarket and Nottingham before, last year, she landed the Redcar general manager’s post - one of 11 women in similar posts in UK racing.

She admits to knowing little of the area, having visited Redcar only for race meetings.

But when, within minutes, three people told her that her car’s rear light was out, she knew she was among friends.

And whatever happens at Redcar in the future, with chairman Lord Zetland’s possible switch to Dunsdale still up in the air, she’s determined to ensure the course makes the most of the present.

She said: “It’s a very fair course, a very tidy course and really quite pretty. I noticed it was well maintained - yes, some buildings are old but someone had cared for them. Hanging baskets, stripy, edged lawns - little things make an impression.

“There might not be much money to spend but with what we’ve got, our track manager, Stephen Berry, and his team do a brilliant job.

“There’s lots I want to do. Give me an open cheque book or £2m from a Lottery winner and we’ll build a new grandstand, but the cash isn’t there.

“We’re a local course for local people. We need to make sure that everyone that comes has a great experience, not just an OK one.”

Costs incurred after a previous administration’s plan to sell off land for housing remain a problem, she says.

“We incurred costs by having to move a bend we didn’t have to move, based on selling land we didn’t sell.

“But not going ahead was sound business sense. Had flats been built, we’d have compromised ourselves in terms of any future development - we wouldn’t get planning permission because those flats would lose their racecourse view.”

And Amy admits the one question she keeps getting asked is one she can’t answer: “When’s the course moving?”

She said: “My remit is to make racing work in Redcar - it’s not dependent on location. Whatever happens, it would be five years plus anyway, so we have to make the best of what we’ve got.

“I welcome all positive, constructive ideas. I’m trying to get away from the negativity of ‘are you moving or not?’ We have to make racing work here and now.”

At a racecourse strapped for cash, Amy is overhauling the details such as signage, while a new website offers online ticket booking. She said: “Word of mouth is good but as a business, we have to be more clued up - that’s why we’ve overhauled the website, for example.

“People have strong opinions about the racecourse moving or not, but lots of them admit they haven’t even been racing here. I would really like them to experience it and tell us their opinion.”

Away from her job, friends and family play a big part in Amy’s life, while other interests include cooking and hockey, at which brother James is an England international.

But she admits: “I’m racing obsessed. I’m so sad, I’ll go racing on my days off.”

And as she’s not a big gambler - “I’m a £2.50 each way kind of girl” - she must feel she’s on to a winner at Redcar.

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