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Monday, 17 December, 2018

Widespread appreciation for the master of so many trades

Andrew Dietz witnesses Bob Davies's last day at Ludlow

Bob Davies (left) and wife Dorcas receive a painting from Ludlow chairman William Jenks
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Somebody upstairs arranged a beautiful day for Bob Davies's big send-off as lush-green Ludlow sparkled in the spring sunshine.

What they might not have known, however, was the ultimate jack of all trades and master of many is not all that bothered about the weather.

One of his trademarks in 35 years of service at the Shropshire course, along with an attention to detail and expert number crunching, is his dress code – or lack of it.

Frequently seen in the depths of winter out on the course in a short-sleeved shirt, Davies carried the toughness and resolution, which served him so well in a riding career defined by three champion jockey titles and Grand National glory, with him into his days after the saddle.

"I was born in Shropshire, I don't feel the cold," he says.

Nobody need worry about the temperature as a healthy crowd, made up of a high proportion of course members, filters in to pay tribute to a key part of the Ludlow success story.

Bob Davies: 35 years of service at Ludlow

Strangely for this time of year there are three jumps meetings in Britain, but there was only one place Richard Johnson, another three-time champion, was going to be.

"I wish him a long and happy retirement," says Johnson, a famous son of bordering Herefordshire. "As a small course Ludlow has thrived over the last 20-25 years and Bob has been the driving force behind it.

"The prize-money has been fantastic and there's a lot of local support – it just goes to show what can be done when a course is run well."

It seems you can't help but bump into a legend of the saddle at Ludlow, and it is fitting in many ways that Davies, one of the first professional jockeys to venture into racecourse management, is passing on the baton to Desert Orchid's rider Simon Sherwood, who has been clerk of the course for the last four years.

"Bob is a law unto himself," says Sherwood with a knowing smile. "He has done fantastic things for the racecourse at a time when racecourses have evolved a lot financially.

"Ludlow has always had an image as being a great prize-money racetrack and he's played a big part in that. He's still going to be involved on a consultancy basis and it will be great to be able to bounce some ideas off him."

To officially mark the end of this era, Davies is presented with a framed painting and afforded a rapturous reception from the throngs around the winner's enclosure.

It is little wonder emotions run high as he stands besides wife Dorcas, who between them have completed 75 years of combined service at the course.

So how will the workaholic start his first day of retirement on what is coincidentally his 72nd birthday? You've guessed it.

"I've got the first half-year accounts to finish off so I'll be back in the office," he says. 

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He has done fantastic things for the racecourse at a time when racecourses have evolved a lot financially
E.W. Terms
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