Q&A with Sam Butler-Spelzini (Head Groundsman)
It takes a huge amount of work to ensure we provide a safe and fair racing surface for our participants and a key member of that team effort is our Head Groundsman, Sam Butler-Spelzini. To help you get to know him better, we posed a few questions to find out what makes him tick.
- How do you go about building a fence?
We would remove the previous season’s birch using a tractor and forks and then put around 240 to 300 bundles of new birch in pace to create the fence. The new fence would have a rough cut to reduce height and then a final cut to meet BHA standards. The front sections of the fence are then installed with additional birch, kickboards and guard rails.
- How many people do you have in your team?
There are four in total, including myself.
- If you were to give any advice during the winter months on how to keep your garden in tip-top shape, what would it be?
You need to keep your garden clear of leaves and debris first of all. The you should scarify your lawns and winter feed the grass to help keep it healthy throughout the cold months. Aeration through forking will also help keep worm activity to a minimum.
- What were you doing before joining the Jockey Club?
I worked at Tottenham Hotspur Football Club as part of their Grounds team.
- What is the first thing you do to prepare for flooding at Huntingdon?
We have specifically designed flood barriers for the Cromwell Stand and we sand bag other vulnerable buildings. We also empty the stables and try to minimize the flooding impact on site.
- Huntingdon is a floodplain but how well does it drain away?
It is on a clay based soil so it dries away pretty quickly. In the summer, the track actually dries quickly and therefore we need to water frequently.
- Do you have a favourite winner that’s been at Huntingdon?
I would have to say Al Ferof, who won the 2015 Peterborough Chase.
- What is your job role on a raceday?
To prepare the track in line with BHA regulations.
- What improvements have happened to the track this Summer? Has COVID restricted this?
We undertook some drainage work on the home straight as per our drainage schedule. Covid has had an impact but we feel the track is in good condition for the season ahead.
- What’s your favourite raceday and why?
It has to be Boxing Day. The atmosphere around the site is great!