OUR MEMORIES
Clerk Of The Course


 

Track The Ground

 

A clerk of the course (COC) is an official in various types of racing.
COC is not just a clerk for ordinary clerical duty.

 

Stage The Show

 

In horse racing, COC is a major and senior officer.
COC has responsibilities from track management, site preparation, premises facilitating to race planning of an optimum fixture list.

 

HIGHLIGHTS

 

Clerks Of The Course recorded in HKJC history:

 

1884, at the formation of the Jockey Club, officers of the Garrison who had been Stewards did not appear in the tabled list. The Clerk of the Course explained that those officers were honorary members, invited by the elected Stewards to assist them at the race Meeting.

 

1887 and before, Major H J H Tripp was one of a large number of Army officers to whom Hong Kong racing is indebted. He was Clerk of the Course until he left the Colony. Warm tribute was paid to him as “one of the most energetic sportsmen Hong Kong has ever had”.

 

1888 AGM (meeting held in the Hong Kong Hotel) Mr E. Gore Booth was appointed Clerk of the Course. He warned members that the Club was faced with heavy expenditure. The grandstand was not in condition to stand much longer.

 

1891, HKJC acquired a sturdy pillar, the rugged Mr Thomas F. Hough, who had been riding for Jardines’ in Shanghai and came down to Hong Kong to be the Clerk of the Course. In this post he was for nearly thirty years the Club’s mainspring, arranging the programmes and managing the race Meetings.
1891-02-03, Mr Hough won the Foochow Cup three years in succession on the same pony, John Peel’s VAGRANT.

 

1894, the Clerk of the Course (Mr Hough) had a bad accident. He did not attend the annual meeting, Mr Hart Buck acting for him.

 

1895, Mr Hough had recovered and was again Clerk of the Course. He was now permanently lame, but could still straddle a horse.

 

1900, the monopoly of the China pony was interrupted. China’s reform movement generated the Boxer Rebellion, and the supply of ponies from North China was cut off. A meeting of subscribers, as reported by the Clerk of the Course, decided that “an effort should be made to supply the place of the usual China makes with Australian ponies.

 

1902, Because of the Club’s expansion adding increasingly to his work, the Clerk of the Course was relieved of his secretarial duties.
A separate secretary was deputed. Mr John Grant, who had acted previously, was selected. In the temporary absence of Mr Hough, Mr A. S. Anton was Clerk of the Course.

 

1905, Mr G. W. Gegg. The last-named became a valued member. He was for a time Manager of the Kennedy Stables, and for a time was Clerk of the Course. .
The acting Chairman, Mr G. C. Moxon, said of him: “Mr Gegg was of good old British yeoman stock — the backbone of our race — the most modest and unobtrusive of men. He was for many years a most active member of the Club, and as jockey, Clerk of the Course, and owner he was ever a good sportsman.

 

1906, Mr Hough presumably as a weight-carrying hack, he bought one of the less successful big pony, Mr Macdonald’s HIGHLAND KING. When Hough was away on leave and Mr H. P. White was acting Clerk of the Course.

 

1909, The Clerk of the Course was in Shanghai for the Spring Meeting. He was impressed by the new system of posting winners—a numeral indicator electrically connected with the Judge’s box.

 

1920, Mr T. F. Hough resigned his post as Clerk of the Course, which he had held since 1891, and Mr R. J. Paterson succeeded him.
At the half-yearly meeting of members in 1920 Mr Hough was present as a Steward. He left the Colony in the following year and the members subscribed to buy him a piece of plate in appreciation of his services to the Club..
Mr Paterson filled the position for only a few months, then left the Colony, for a time, and Mr H. Birkett became Clerk of the Course.
Sir Henry May in his introduction to his Notes reveals that the suggestion that he should write them was made at an Annual Dinner of the Stewards (held to arrange the race programmes). “There are few social gatherings in Hong Kong that are as enjoyable as the Annual Dinner of the Stewards of the Jockey Club. The thoughtful care of our Clerk of the Course ensures grateful refreshment.

 

1923, Mr P. Tester (Tester & Abraham). Mr C. H. Blason had succeeded Mr H. Birkett as Clerk of the Course, but soon gave place to Mr F. Sutton, a Civil Servant (Public Works Department). An energetic and efficient man, Mr Sutton won the members’ unstinted esteem.

 

1924, Mr R. J. Paterson, reported that the construction of a permanent fence had begun, for a distance of 900 feet, in front of the houses overlooking the track at the Village Bend.

 

1926, Mr R. J. Paterson, in his report referred to the “rather poor times through which the Club is passing” (because of the strike and boycott). This compelled postponement of all repair work beyond essential painting of the course buildings.

 

1929-12-12, the acting Clerk of the Course reported: “The drainage difficulties that occurred last summer were unprecedented, and this is attributed largely to the building operations on Stubbs Road, loose earth being washed down the hillside and choking up the Cemetery nullah, which runs into the Racecourse nullah near the Judge’s box.
This in turn blocked up the Racecourse nullah, and the wall at the Village gave way during the typhoon on August 18, practically all the water from Wongneichong Valley being then discharged across the course.
“Then a veritable deluge occurred on the night of October 30, about 16 inches of rain falling in 24 hours.
Happy Valley was flooded at one time almost up to the level of the Judge’s box, and a deep layer of sand and mud was deposited nearly all over the Valley. It was the worst experience I have known.
” It was difficult to get labour; but the Public Works Department took the matter in hand with great energy, work being carried on until midnight with the aid of powerful lamps.

 

1930, The duties of the Clerk of the Course had become so arduous that they were split. Mr F. Sutton continued to be responsible for the course, the training track and the outside work.
The Chairman (Mr Mackie) and Mr Tester were named Stewards in Charge of Buildings, and thereafter reported to every meeting.
Annual Race Meeting, Mr B. D. F. Beith and Mr Pearce were joint Clerks of the Course

 

1932, Mr Sutton said the trainers and mafoos had been instructed to take the ponies anti-clockwise along Wongneichong Road and via the crossroad (Sports Road) past the Golf Club and into the paddock. (At that time tram-cars did not run right around the Valley.
They entered the Valley via the very narrow Bowrington Road and reached their terminus via the Monument, then returning the same way and leaving the Valley at Tin Lok Lane.

 

1933-05-29, Mr Sutton reported, “All the amahs and children of Wongneichong seem to congregate on the track, and the turf has little chance of growing.
” The Recreation Ground being a public place, the new perimeter fence had been provided with gates, resulting in beaten paths across the track which defied repeated re-turfing.
Finally the Club was permitted to keep two of the gates closed.

 

1935, Mr Sutton retired and left the Colony. Mr T. E. Pearce was made Clerk of the Course.

 

1937, Mr E. B. Reed. a Civil Servant, was a well-known cricketer. He became the Clerk of the Course.

 

1940, the Hon. Mr T. E. Pearce, now a member of the Legislative Council, took over the head of the table, while also serving as Clerk of the Course.

 

1945-11-17, immediately upon Liberation, Col. Dowbiggin became Clerk of the Course.
He was quartered in the stands at the Racecourse as a resident supervisor, and, under the rules, he resigned from the Board of Stewards, after 12 years’ service.

 

1951, Mr A. H. Penn, head of the Bank Line, was acting Clerk of the Course.
He was a Steward and prominent Committee member of St. George’s Society. Mr Penn authorised Falconers to buy St. George Cup for the Society, and it was presented to the Club. It cost £80.

 

1962, Mr J. Kelso; Clerk of the Course and a Stipendiary. The Chairman commented, “We must all regret that the Club did not do this before.
” Mr J. Kelso, is an Australian with a good record as a successful trainer in New South Wales. Jack Kelso was handicapper and might be Clerk of Course as well until 1967.

 

1970, Mr Mike Boycott, was a famous rider from TienJin. He was appointed as Secretary and later as Clerk of the Course responsible for all stables administration, including security, and ‘to undertake to raise training standards to those comparable with training establishments elsewhere.
For one who had always regarded himself as an amateur rider, this must surely be one of the finest compliments ever paid.
The truth is that the good riders in the China races knew — and had to know — more of horses and horsemanship than riders elsewhere.
He returned to England after his retirement. Mr Boycott was Clerk of the Course from the time he took over as Racing Sec in 1967/68 which was then the most senior job.

 

1973, Mr Tim Thompson was made Manager Shatin and later Clerk of the Course as well with Noel McCaffrey his assistant stables manager.

 

1978, Mr Tim Thompson was the Project Manager for the building of Sha Tin Racecourse and he became Clerk of the Course and Racecourse Manager, Sha Ttin.
Mr Noel McCaffrey was the Deputy Project Manager.
Mr Gordon Corrigan was Clerk of the Course in Happy Valley and Racing Secretary to Director of Racing Mr Jamie Barber.

 

1980, Mr Noel McCaffrey became the Clerk of the Course. He was the assistant to General Penfold, specially in the building and further developing the Sha Tin Racecourse.

 

1989, Mr John Jeffs accepted an offer to join the HKJC as Clerk of the Course in charge of Sha Tin and Happy Valley. Previously, he was Racecourse Manager in charge of Rosehill and Canterbury of the Sydney turf Club.

 

1994-07-18, Mr John Ridley joined HKJC as Racing Manager (Clerk of the Course).
He was later appointed as Senior Racecourse Manager and became Head of Racing Operations & Equestrian.
He formerly worked with the AJC at Randwick as well as with the ARC at Ellerslie, has an admirable can do attitude.
He still holds the raceday position, Clerk of the Course, which is a requirement under the Rule of Racing.

 

 

SUMMARY

 

CLERK OF THE COURSE usually have to
– maintain the condition of the race tracks, working tracks, fences, enclosures, grand stands and all buildings on the race course.
– ensure that the course is properly measured and marked.
– make all such arrangements for the conduct of the meeting or any race.
– supervise and keep informed the underfoot conditions of the course and convey this information to the Stewards and the Racing Director before the races.
– make recommendations to the Stewards to cancel or to abandon a day’s racing or to abandon any races. Under the exceptional circumstances or if the weather or the ground, in his opinion, be in an unfit state to race.

 

REFERENCE

 

Instructions made by the Stewards of HKJC: Inst. 20.

Racecourses and Track Work Regulations:

(1) The opening of the grass course and all weather tracks for training rests entirely with the Clerk of the Course or such person authorized by him.

 

 

 


 

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