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11 July 2019

Recently-appointed Go Racing in Yorkshire General Manager, Charlotte Russell brings with her an affinity for the County and a love of horses and racing. She tells Racing Together about her role and the imminent Yorkshire Racing Summer Festival

Promoting all that’s great about Yorkshire

My interest in racing came from growing up in a family that had (and still does have) home-bred point-to-pointers.  Back then, the season was so short, February to May, that I needed to find something else that I could be as passionate about until the season started again and so naturally gravitated towards racing! 

I knew I wanted to work in the racing industry and started working summer holidays at York Racecourse.  After finishing university, I worked at Ascot Racecourse and then moved back home to Yorkshire to work at Beverley.

I had a little break from the racing industry and spent seven years working for the Yorkshire Agricultural Society, helping to organise the Great Yorkshire Show and marketing their different brands before taking up the role of General Manager at Go Racing in Yorkshire in February this year.

A forward-thinking group

Yorkshire has nine racecourses and a good mix of Flat and jumps, offering a huge amount of variety for all interests.  Each course is so unique but so forward-thinking in how to make the most of their assets and work with the communities around them.

My favourite part of the job, so far, has to be working with such passionate people.  Although our office is very small in terms of staff, the racecourse teams are my extended colleagues and always willing to chat things through with enthusiasm and encouragement.  I’m looking forward to completing a full year and learning more about the different racedays each course runs.

I would also like to engage more with racing’s other stakeholders in Yorkshire, such as trainers, jockeys and stable staff.  There are some great networks for us to link in with and it would be useful if they all understood what Go Racing in Yorkshire is about so that we can collaborate and be greater than the sum of our parts.

Bringing Yorkshire racing together

Go Racing in Yorkshire is the marketing organisation for Yorkshire’s nine racecourses and our remit is to encourage more footfall to the Yorkshire tracks. We do this by supporting the work of the racecourses themselves and also organising our own activities such as the Summer Festival, Best Dressed Lady Final and the Future Stars Apprentice Series.

Supporting community engagement is a great way for the public to see what racing can do outside of its main focus.  Again, we can support the racecourses’ own activity, for example, Wetherby’s Mascot race and Beverley’s Charity racenight, and we can initiate our own activity that in turn is supported by the racecourses.

Helping Harrogate Homeless

One of the first initiatives that I was involved with came from raceday presenter Adele Mulrennan.  We worked with the Harrogate Homeless Project and together with the racecourses and a large number of Yorkshire-based jockeys filled washbags with essentials for the homeless. 

The project distributed them to those who needed them and received some really positive feedback.

This has forged an ongoing relationship with the Harrogate Homeless Project. Very recently I attended a social event where some race tickets were donated to raise funds in the auction to allow them to continue their amazing work.

Rachel Richardson, Andrew Mullen and Paul Mulrennan, professional Jockeys with Wash Bags. With Charlotte Fortune from The Harrogate Homeless Project Yorkshire Jockeys Support Homeless Project A group of Yorkshire jockeys have come together to help those less fortunate than themselves, working with the Harrogate Homeless Project. Often travelling to race meetings with only the contents of a washbag, most jockeys equipment is transported between racecourses via the valets who work in the weighing room – the jockeys have filled spare washbags with useful contents in a bid to help people in difficult circumstances. Photographer: Charlotte Graham.

A team effort to tidy the local area

For Racing Together Community Day, we wanted to keep our activity racing-related, so litter picking around the gallops seemed to be a good idea. We worked with the Malton and Norton Tidy Group, as the area is slightly outside of their parish boundary, so we were able to extend their work.

The litter pick was really well received, particularly by courses with a smaller workforce.  All of our courses race in the summer months meaning time is tight, yet they all wanted to support the Community Engagement day.

The council were very supportive in supplying equipment and CGC Event Caterers who cater at most of the Yorkshire racecourses donated much welcome refreshments!

We also had a good turnout from the northern William Hill shops who wanted to get involved with a project, our sponsored jockey Kieran Schofield came along, as did trainer Julie Camacho.

There have been some sterling efforts from individual racecourses as well, such as Beverley’s charity night. Ripon racecourse organised their own litter pick as they were racing the day after the community engagement day so completed their activity early and York Racecourse have got some exciting plans to action once their season has finished in October.

Yorkshire Trainer Jedd O’Keeffe welcomed retired staff to the yard for a coffee morning

A first for Beverley’s Big Charity Racenight

Beverley’s Charity Racenight was a great initiative to support so many local charities in their area.  The whole evening was devoted to the five charities. The racecourse also welcomed a group of refugees settling in the area for a behind-the-scenes tour of the racecourse and afternoon tea, following their bike ride around the area.

One of the additional benefits to the evening, which hadn’t been perceived in the planning stages, was the way the charities worked together. They had regular fundraising meetings and sourced prizes and activities to raise funds and split the proceeds, rather than working individually.

The evening was a great success and was covered by ITV Racing.

Beverley’s Big Charity Racenight supported five local causes

A true festival of Yorkshire racing

Our main focus right now is the Go Racing in Yorkshire Summer Festival, sponsored by Sky Bet, which takes place at the end of July. There are 10 race meetings over nine days at eight courses!

As part of that week there will be an Open Afternoon at Jack Berry House on Tuesday 23rd July, which includes a screening of the film Seabiscuit.  We are promoting this to racing retirees via Racing Welfare and also Jack Berry House beneficiaries, but it is open to all, especially as it is the first week of the school holidays, so ideal for those with children.

Fixtures for the fast-approaching Go Racing in Yorkshire Summer Festival

The Ladies Day competitions continue to run over the summer months and the winner of the best- dressed lady competition at each racecourse heads to the final at Doncaster in October – there is a lot to play for with some great prizes from; The Best Western Mount Pleasant Hotel and Bawtry boutique, Incognito.

The Future Stars Apprentice Series is a great way of supporting our industry at the grassroots level.  Each racecourse holds a qualifying race with a final at Doncaster and points are awarded throughout the season and the winner will be sponsored by Go Racing in Yorkshire the following the year.

There are a lot of exciting things to take forward and grow at Go Racing in Yorkshire, as well as some new ideas I would like to initiate along the way, so please keep your eyes peeled!

Find out more about the Go Racing in Yorkshire Summer Festival here:

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