Q & A with Track Foreman Roy Butler
- Tell us how you got in to this industry? Did you always follow horse racing?
I was in the Golf industry for 25 years before I got into this role. The job as Track Foreman came up and I decided to try for the position as I had a huge interest in racing. Golf was also going through a rough period, so it was time for change. Luckily, I was successful and am here at Naas almost 3 years now. There are similarities between maintenance of a racetrack to a golf course so the transition was not too difficult.
- As Track Foreman what does your role entail?
My role ultimately is to manage everything that is required to produce a top-class racing surface and layout for a raceday. We are also always planning for the future at Naas, with many development projects and track improvements going on. All of these projects need planning.
It is always busy, between meetings the track needs to be repaired, fertilised, cut 3 times per week in the summer months, sanded, rail alignment along with stable yard cleaning. During the National hunt season fences and hurdles have to be built and repaired also. A lot of physical work is involved, so I am grateful to the excellent track staff at Naas.
- Give us an overview of how you prepare for a jumps meeting?
The tracks are laid out at the start of the season. Fences and hurdles are birched and readied for the season. We have island hurdles, so we set up the track and we give 5/7 yards of fresh ground for every meeting. There is serious work after a meeting especially if the ground is heavy. The damage can be heart breaking, but this is part of the job.
- What’s the most challenging aspect of your job?
The most challenging aspect is when there is a short turnaround from meeting to meeting. Coordinating staff to get through the workload can be challenging.
- Do you prefer preparing for the National Hunt or the Flat race meeting?
It is much of a muchness really. They both bring different challenges. Usually, winter racing means more damage and repair to the track and flat racing means a lot of grass cutting and watering. I really don't have a preference other than its obviously warmer in the summer.
- Describe the perfect going for a National Hunt meeting.
I don't think there is such a thing as perfect going to be honest. Everyone who runs a horse has a type of going that they want. Soft ground I suppose is what most want for national hunt, but as long as it is safe for both horse and rider that's what is important.
- Describe some of the improvements to the track since you started in your role?
We are always trying to improve at Naas. A couple of things that we have done, is to improve the quality, and efficiency of the machinery and equipment used to maintain the track. We have also just installed a canter down along Tipper road, which gets the horses to the starts safely and more efficiently.
- The worst type of weather for the track?
There are two scenarios that are not good. Too wet and too dry. Too wet and it means lots of repair and too dry means the watering machines are flat out. We have a briggs watering system at Naas, so we are lucky.
- Your favourite race meeting at Naas?
There are some great days at Naas. The Ballyhane Day, The Ascot Trials Day, The Foran Final along with all the good group races on the flat. The Lawlors day and the Leinster National are just a couple during the national hunt that I look forward to.
- What do you do to switch off and relax?
I play Golf as much as I can. I play off 4 handicap so need to practice as much as possible. I love GAA and practically any sport with a ball.
View our Meet The Team video with Roy HERE