Often blending into the background, red coats and all, clerks of the course are a critical part of racing. Responsible for chaperoning horses to the starting gates and dealing with any issue that may arise during the race, it’s a job that requires a calm demeanor and excellent horsemanship. The Gray family has both, borne from years of devotion to the animals, as well as a family history in the sport. We spoke to Remi, the first female Clerk of the Course at Flemington about why the job is so special.
My job is ... a clerk of the course. My role involves looking after horses and jockeys on race day, this includes leading horses to the barriers and catching any loose horses if a fall occurs.
The best part of my job is ... probably getting to ride my own horse every day, and work alongside great people. Catching a loose horse is always a thrill, too.
A challenging part of my job is ... dealing with naughty horses! To ensure we are ready to deal with any behaviour, we must make sure our horses are extremely well educated and well behaved.
I love my job because ... I just love working with horses and being outdoors, as well as working alongside my brother and father.
My favourite moment in my career is ... definitely being the first female clerk of the course to work at Flemington on Oaks Day in 2018 at only 21 years old. Closely followed by winning the Victorian Wakeful Clubs Spirit of Racing award for my achievements as a clerk of the course.
My career background is ... My family has always been involved in racing. My grandfather Ray Gray was a trainer and trained a great horse named Foxley, my father Peter Gray was also a trainer before becoming a clerk of the course, so I was always going to follow a career in racing. I had grown up in pony club and started playing polocrosse in 2010, so I loved riding every chance I got. I would follow Dad around to race meetings and help any trainer I could. I just loved being at the races and working with horses. In 2014 I started a cadetship as a clerk while I completed my schooling. I worked on weekends alongside my father for four years before becoming a senior clerk in the Wimmera and Ballarat region.
I am setting my sights on ... I don't really have my sights set on anything at the moment. As long as my horses are working well and are healthy and happy, then that's all that matters.
Someone who I admire is ... I think it goes without saying, I admire my old man. I've always been dad’s little girl, and I’ve always admired the work he does. He’s an amazing clerk and horseman in general. He always gives great advice and nine times out of 10 he's usually right when it comes to horses.
My favourite racing moment is ... probably Black Caviar winning at Royal Ascot. I remember setting my alarm just so I wouldn't miss it. Mum, dad, my brother and I sat in the lounge at some silly hour of morning just to watch her race. Being at the races and witnessing Bashboy and Ruby Walsh win the Grand National Steeplechase in 2015 is also one of my favourite racing moments.
A horse I have loved or admired is ... I may be biased but I’d have to say my main clerk horse Snowy is a horse I love and admire. He’s a 14-year-old stock horse that I have owned for almost five years. He loves to go fast and is one of the smartest horses I have ever sat on. If anything goes wrong I know I can always count on him to look after me and make me look good. He’s definitely not an easy horse to ride, but he’s my heart horse and has never let me down.
I like the sport of racing because ... of how many people are involved in the industry. From owners to trainers and track riders right down to the farriers and feed suppliers. Thoroughbreds are treated like royalty and the amount of people behind the scenes to keep the horses happy and healthy is huge. We all love racing because we love horses.
My job was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic because ... I was very lucky with my role as a clerk that I was not affected by the pandemic like a lot of other people were.
We overcame the challenges of the pandemic by ...The racing industry went to extreme measures to keep our industry going during the pandemic. As a clerk of the course we now wear gloves every race and sanitise our hands after each race to minimise the risk of infection. All participants also get their temperature tested when they arrive on course.
In my spare time I like to ... read. I also play polocrosse in the summer months, so keeping horses fit and getting new horses going always keeps me busy.
The racing industry in Australia is ... great, I count my lucky stars every day for being involved in such a wonderful industry.
For more information to hear from Remi Gray and her fiery partner Snowy.
Source: Martin Reddy Photography and VRC Collection