2017 REMEMBERED: Goodwood bids goodbye to legend Seamus

Another year is over ... and it's time to look back at some of the local sporting highlights of 2017.

Thursday, 21st December 2017, 1:04 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th June 2018, 6:51 pm
Seamus Buckley takes the acclaim of the jockeys as he bows out at Goodwood / Picture by Malcolm Wells

Over the new few days, we will be re-running reports, picture galleries and videos that will bring back memories of some of the big moments in sport that this part of West Sussex has seen during the year.

Today we begin the series by recalling a day of emotion at Goodwood racecourse - as clerk of the course Seamus Buckley retired after 23 years at the track and 50 years in racing.

See the occasion on video, above, and read below my piece on the day they said bye, bye Buckley...

Seamus Buckley takes the acclaim of the jockeys as he bows out at Goodwood / Picture by Malcolm Wells

It's not every day the crowd at Goodwood give someone three cheers. In fact it's not every year they do it.

It's reserved for very special occasions - and very special people. In fact the last time I can remember ‘hip hip hooray' ringing around the winner's enclosure was back in 2011 for Sir Henry Cecil, trainer of the wonder-horse Frankel, who'd just seen off his Sussex Stakes rivals without breaking sweat.

Six years on, race-goers had another unique character to salute. For that's what Seamus Buckley is. A man who's given his whole working life – 51 years in total – to racing. And 23 of those to Goodwood.

For nearly a quarter of a century the affable Irishman has been in charge of one of the most beautiful racecourses in the world and all its grounds – taking responsibility for producing a racing surface the best racehorses in the businesses want to run on and thrive on. He reckons he has walked 18,000 miles in the job and overseen more than 30,000 runners.

It's never been an easy task – Buckley admitted as much in his final interview before waving to the crowds and saying his goodbyes – but it is a job he has always done with professional, diligence and integrity. If a trainer has phoned to ask about the going or the likely changes to it before raceday, that trainer has always been given an honest answer.

On his final day Buckley was quick to give praise to the team he had worked with down the years. He could not have done it alone, and is not the sort to try to take more credit than he is due. But right now, he is due plenty of credit.

To have done such a high pressure job while retaining the respect of trainers, jockeys, owners alike, not to mention that of the racegoers who have been lucky enough to watch the action on the Buckley-prepared turf, is quite something. To have kept smiling throughout, right to the last moment, is even more amazing.

He is happy to be passing on the Goodwood going stick to Ed Arkell, who has assisted him at Glorious for the past decade, and said he would still be around to offer a little help to the staff he is leaving behind – but only when he is wanted. "I don't want to be a nuisance," he said. There is no danger of that. His continued presence, however occasional, will surely be welcomed by everyone.

Bye (for now) Seamus. Enjoy putting your feet up.You deserve a rest.