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Tuesday, 22 January, 2019

Go-to agronomist Harbridge puts away his spade after quarter of a century

Racing gathered at Haydock to honour Mike Harbridge (centre, red tie). Those paying tribute included clerks of the course Kirkland Tellwright (far left), Charlie Moore (in panama hat) and Keith Ottesen (far right)
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If there's something strange in your neighbourhood, who you gonna call? After more than a quarter of a century, it will no longer be Mike Harbridge.

From drainage problems to slipping horses, chafer grubs to leatherjackets, he has been the unsung troubleshooter that the majority of Britain's tracks have turned to, including Jockey Club Racecourses and Arena Racing Company.

But Harbridge, the go-to expert ever since courses were required to retain the services of an agronomist in the early-1990s, has hung up his seeds and soil samples and put away his spade.

A celebration of the contribution made by a man who was lead designer/agronomist in the development of numerous Premier League pitches and training grounds, and also the Wembley Stadium pitch redevelopment, was held at Haydock.

Harbridge, 67, said: "I've loved my time in racing, people are all very friendly and they all want to know how to do things right on the track, all for the benefit of the horse.

Mike Harbridge judged the best turned out award and presented the prize for the third race at Haydock

"Year on year I've seen improvements everywhere. Groundstaff are more educated and trained and have access to a much wider range of equipment and chemicals, which all helps to provide a better-quality racing surface."

Leading the tributes, Racecourse Association services director Caroline Davies said: "Mike’s professional assistance to racecourses in developing the quality of racing surfaces has been immense.

"Mike has established himself as one of, if not the, leading experts on racecourse turf husbandry and has very generously shared his knowledge during our biennial turf husbandry seminars for clerks of the course and groundstaff."

On behalf of JCR, Kirkland Tellwright said: "I'm delighted Haydock played their part in ensuring Mike received the accolade he deserves on his retirement.

"At Haydock he was the scientist who designed and managed the detail of the reconstruction of the Flat tracks and I shall always be grateful to him for the skill and commitment he brought to that role.”

For Arc, fellow long-serving clerk of the course Charlie Moore said: “I've been privileged to walk many different courses with Mike and look at a variety of problems, involving drainage, course widening or levelling, chafer grubs and leatherjackets, plus horses slipping on prostrate/procumbent grass; then, for this summer, drought!

"His experience and knowledge are quite outstanding and racing has been lucky to have him in our corner. He leaves a great legacy, along with a good team to carry on his efforts at his company, Professional Sportsturf Design."

Charlie Moore: full of praise for Mike Harbridge

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His experience and knowledge are quite outstanding and racing has been lucky to have him in our corner

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