Lawn and order
The famed Flemington turf is a sight to behold, and always looks impeccable. This is due to the dedication and hard work of the track managers and workers that handle the management of the turf. They go to great lengths to maintain the health and viability of the tracks and to provide a safe and uniform surface for each race. It is a huge job that requires a big team, and we meet a few of them here.
Jake Harris, Daniel McAlpine, Mason Lindner and new addition to the team, Sean Howard all have one thing in common: they are very enthusiastic about grass! Good thing, too, as they are part of the team under Liam O’Keeffe and Brendan Jackson that looks after the world-class tracks.
With the course proper taking around six hours to mow, it is no wonder that a large team is required to look after the track around the clock. Jake, who has worked at Flemington for over two years including a year under the guidance of Keeper of the Roses, Mick Ryan, said that as mowing is a large part of his job, he was first given a comprehensive introduction to the machinery. “I had training to get my bearings on the mowers and tractors, which was great,” he said.
Two main types of grass are used on the course proper – Perennial Ryegrass and Kentucky Bluegrass – which are all-round grasses that can grow throughout the year and withstand racing through all seasons.
Jake, Daniel, Mason and Sean all perform general turf work: mowing, watering and the all-important filling in of the divots left after the horses have run the race. It is a familiar sight to those on course at Flemington on race day to see the track team out between racings, diligently filling in every divot to ensure the next race is safe and fair.
Daniel, who has recently completed his 3.5 year apprenticeship in turf management, first studied horticulture, such was his passion for soil and plant nutrition and irrigation. Following some time at Moonee Valley, he moved on to Flemington, where he says he has the perfect job. “I get to combine my passion for grass with my passion for horses. You can’t get much better.”
Jake describes himself as a ‘mug punter’, but also has developed a love of the horses. “I had a little bit of an interest before I joined Flemington, but now I love it more every day,” he said.
Another facet he admires in his job is the team he works with. “It really is a shared load. I am able to bounce things off every person I work with and all of my co-workers are great.”
While the focus is on maintaining that perfect turf – with the scrupulous punter and media tipsters all keeping a close watch on the track rating – the team also performs many other duties, especially on race day, which are vital to keeping everything running smoothly and safely.
From raking in the divots to helping the barrier attendants and looking after the temporary chutes, they are an essential part of the Flemington team.
So take a closer look next time you’re at the racecourse and admire the flawless turf and the hard-working people who, between races, will be seen touching up the track or doing many other jobs to add up to an incredible event.