What does the Clerk of the Course do in horse racing?

The Clerk of the Course is an important role in horse racing but it’s not something bettors need to be overly concerned about

Clerk of the course horse racing

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When you’re next horse racing betting you might hear word about the clerk of the course. This is an official who, during raceday, you’re probably not going to come across unless there is an issue with the horse racing environment – the racetrack, racecourse, jumps, etc.

Clerks of the course generally keep behind the scenes on race day, just as groundspeople in football and rugby keep out of the limelight.

But that doesn’t mean they’re not important to how a race day unfolds! So, what does a clerk of the course actually do? Paddy Power’s latest guide in our Demystifying Racing series gets to the bottom of it…

What is the clerk of the course?

The clerk of the course is the figure in charge of all grounds conditions at a race course. This factors in the racecourse or racetrack that the horses run on, and also includes additional features such as jumps, boundary fences, gates and stables.

The clerk of the course’s main responsibilities include:

  • Assessing the course and deciding if it is fit enough to race
  • Confirming the official going for the race day
  • Preparing and maintaining jumps – both hurdles and fences – during National Hunt meetings
  • Protecting the turf from overuse
  • Overseeing the maintenance of the course in the lead-up to the race

A typical race day for a clerk of the course begins early, sometimes before sunrise. They will oversee the racecourse and discuss with the head groundsperson any repairs that need carrying out, or issues to be addressed. The clerk will also meet with the stables manager, to declarations clerk and the steward, and check over paperwork to ensure everything is correct.

clerk of the course

The clerk of the course (left) and inspector of courses must ensure the turf passes inspection before declaring the race day suitable for racing (GETTY)

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During televised races the clerk of the course must check all cameras and commentators stations are safely in place. In effect, they are the overseer of the entire event.

The clerk is usually on hand to discuss the going with owners, trainers and jockeys. During races they generally take a backseat but are present to orchestrate any maintenance that needs doing throughout the day.

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