Ross Coles, chief clerk of the course, celebrates 50 years with Ellerslie

Ross Coles

Ross Coles

A passion for horses and Ellerslie for 50 years, Ross Coles is celebrating the start of the racing season with first look at new $6m stables

New Zealand’s premier thoroughbred racecourse, Ellerslie, has unveiled its new $6m stables complex which will be operational for the first big raceday of the 2018/19 racing season, OMF Melbourne Cup Day on 6th November when Clerk of the Course, Ross Coles will also be celebrating his 50 years with Ellerslie.

Ellerslie Racecourse is famous for its Grey Clerks Horses. Ross Coles, chief clerk of the course, has been a Clerk at Ellerslie for 35 years this year (his 70th year) and he will also be celebrating his half a century of involvement with Ellerslie this season.

Ross took over from his father who instigated the red coats and grey horses. Ross aka horseman extraordinaire is extremely passionate about horses and has fond memories from his childhood at Ellerslie. Racing has taken place at Ellerslie Racecourse for over 160 years, and the venue is an iconic landmark that the industry, wider Auckland region and all visitors can be proud of.

Ross Coles: Clerk of the Course, Ellerslie Racecourse

Could you tell us a bit about yourself?  Are horses a family passion?

I’m in my 70th year and am surrounded by my beautiful family, my wife Stephanie, two children Ben and Emma and four grandchildren. I originally came from quite a different working background, with my early days spent in a corporate setting before I made the change to become a professional in the racing industry.

How did you get in to the racing industry?  And how did you find yourself in the Clerk of the Course role?

Horses have always been a passion of mine, so the racing lifestyle has been a part of my life for a very long time. I held an amateur riding licence in my late teens and at the age of 14 I filled in as Clerk of the Course at Avondale Racecourse. A couple of years down the track I became a full time attendant at Ellerslie Racecourse. Fast forward and I have now been part of the Ellerslie family for over 50 years.

Could you describe an average race day to us? What does your job entail? 

The day takes a bit of preparation before the horses begin their race. You’ll usually find me on the course at least an hour before the first race kicks off. During this time I’ll be chatting with the Race Day Manager and Stipendiary Stewards to see if there are any changes and new instructions. Once the races begin, it’s my job to take care of the horses and their riders by ensuring each horse is in the right place at the right time. It’s my job to ensure everything runs smoothly.

What is your favourite part about your job?

The Premier race days are always exciting. My favourite part is being involved in the racing industry – you get to meet a lot of interesting characters and many have become lifelong friends.

Ellerslie Racecourse the art of celebration

What’s your favourite memory from Ellerslie?  Either as a clerk of the course or attendee?

The day in 1980 when Lester Piggott rode four winners in his one day riding at Ellerslie Racecourse. Also the Great Northern Steeplechase when won by Hunterville on three consecutive years, and the tie for first place after 4.5 miles between Smart Hunter and Sir Avion. Another vivid memory is when Eiffel Tower ran off after the water jump on the first round and then turned to chase the field, but then ended up turning to win.

What is your favourite racetrack in the world? What about your favourite racehorse?

Horses I most admire would be Winx and I can’t forget Sunline. Without sounding ‘corny’, there is no place like home and Ellerslie is my home racecourse and is very special to me.