Mr Ludlow Bob Davies steps down after 35 years of service at the course
Bob Davies, known to many as Mr Ludlow having fulfilled a variety of roles at the Shropshire course for around 35 years, enters a well-deserved retirement as the curtain comes down on the track's season on Sunday.
Davies, who will be 72 on Monday, steps down from his role as general manager and company secretary at the independent track, for which he also served a long tenure as clerk of the course before the appointment of fellow former jockey Simon Sherwood four years ago.
While it might be the end of era, Davies departs with Ludlow firmly established as a racecourse making the most of what it has, and a real favourite of owners, trainers and jockeys for providing consistently high levels of prize-money for a course of its size.
As a former champion jockey "two and a half times" – he shared the title with Terry Biddlecombe in 1968-69 – and a Grand National winner on Lucius in 1978, he also brings to an end a seemingly everlasting presence in racing, having had his first ride in a point-to-point aged 14.
"I was born and raised in the area and think the first time I came to Ludlow was when I was about ten and my dad Eric ran a mare in a hunter chase in the 1950s," said Davies on Saturday.
"It's been a long time and the place has changed a lot, and I feel lucky as I've been involved in a hobby of mine for all my working life."
Having quit the saddle in 1982 after partnering 912 winners in a stellar career, Davies worked as a pundit with Julian Wilson and returned home to farm, but shortly after he was approached by Ludlow director John Williams to replace retiring clerk of the course Major John Moon.
"From 1986 there was a period when I was company secretary, general manager and clerk of the course at Ludlow, clerk of the course at Bangor and assistant clerk of the course and secretary at Hereford," he said. "Up until Simon joined I did everything at Ludlow with my wife Dorcas, who has done all the accounts."
Davies met his second wife through his work at the track and between them they have completed 75 years combined service.
When asked what the couple will do now, Davies, ever a man of the turf, replied: "The garden needs sorting out!"
He added: "We'll spend more time in our apartment in south-east Spain and I'll be around to help out if the course needs it."
THE DAVIES EFFECT
When I took over Ludlow was in the bottom three with regards to what courses put into prize-money – and now we're well in the second-tier. We were way behind the likes of Wincanton and Warwick, but now we're comparable to them. It's a unique set-up as we're a members' club and there are no shareholders, and everything we make goes back into prize-money and improvements.
Standard of racing
Our quality has improved a lot and we've reached a point where we have Class 3 races at every meeting. Our lowest value races are bumpers at £6,000, novice hurdles at £7,500 and everything else is £9,000. We're there to support the grassroots. In terms of attracting top-class horses, people worry about our road crossings and sharp nature of the course. Nicky [Henderson] has run some good horses here though, the best of which was probably Punjabi as a novice as he went on to win the Champion Hurdle.
When I started the facilities were basic to say the least. There was a main stand and weighing-room with a shack on the end for the showers and tea room. The members' bar was an asbestos-clad building with a tin roof covered in felt. The major advance for all courses was the advent of SIS, with money coming in for betting shop pictures, allowing us to catch up on improvements. We had a major fire in the early 1990s which destroyed our members' buildings, and we built the Clive Pavilion building, extended the Jubilee Stand and in 2010 came the modernised Plymouth Stand.
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