RIGHT MAN for the right job, is very much a sentence that applies to Sandy Dudgeon, the senior steward of The Jockey Club in England. Dudgeon was in the UAE a fortnight ago when he was able to visit to Sheikh Hamdan with the pair discussing many topics, including the continued growth and prosperity of Purebred Arabian racing in Britain, a subject very close to His Highness' heart. Just a few days before the biggest four days of National Hunt racing in the world, the four day Cheltenham Festival which began on Tuesday, Dudgeon was also able to attend two UAE race meetings, Jebel Ali and Super Saturday, both contested behind closed doors.
A chartered accountant by profession, Dudgeon has strong roots in racing and was a leading amateur jockey, who won 60 races in point to points and under National Hunt rules, including the 1984 Foxhunters over the Grand National fences at Aintree Racecourse. Dudgeon even completed the 1986 Grand National with Gayle Warning, his partner in the Foxhunters success as well. Dudgeon began his five year term as senior steward (non executive chairman) of The Jockey Club, the largest commercial group in British Racing and an organisation that manages many of the sport’s key assets for the benefit of racing, in July 2019. He was appointed to the club’s board of stewards in December 2017, having previously been a steward for four years from 2009 to 2012, which was in itself an up from being an elected member in 1989.
It’s been an upward moving curve all along for Dudgeon with the uphill finish at Jebel Ali Racecourse offering him something ‘most exciting’, in his own words, during a recent visit to Dubai. “I used to ride myself, so I think anywhere I go in the world, the chance to see racetracks in action is the most exciting thing for me,” Dudgeon told Al Adiyat. “So, wherever you are, to come here for the first time and see a racetrack that finishes uphill like this reminds you of the tougher tracks so I imagine it’s quite a challenge to win here. It looks terrific.” Dudgeon was also full of praise for the government of the UAE and the Emirates Racing Authority, the body governing racing in the Emirates, for doing their bit to keep wheels of the sport rolling despite the pandemic caused by coronavirus.
“It’s great the racing is on at all because worldwide you have the challenges of putting on sport and how governments have to react to what’s going on. I think it’s great we’re here at all so it’s fantastic,” Dudgeon added. It would have been a spectacle all right for Dudgeon had racing not been forced to be conducted behind closed doors at Jebel Ali Racecourse, which is famous for its tea party atmosphere and boasts massive crowds on race days. He had heard enough, but unfortunately was deprived of a chance to soak up the action first hand. “I hear you have families here and you have parties and that’s just fantastic because racing is a sport for families so it’s very good to see children in attendance and in Britain we have a very high percentage of families coming for race meetings.
I know it’s been tougher for the management here today,” he said. “But it’s wonderful to be here in Dubai because there is such a great relationship between those racing in Dubai and those racing in Britain so it’s very, very good from my point of view in my first year as senior steward to be able to come to Dubai.”