Racing veterans first past the post in Palace stakes

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JOHN Sanderson, a pivotal figure at several Yorkshire racecourses for more than 45 years, has been awarded the OBE for services to horse racing.

He has held key posts at both York and Doncaster, and is still involved in the day-to-day running of four courses at Catterick, Redcar, Thirsk and Wetherby.

Mr Sanderson is one of two racing supremos from the region to be honoured – Norman Gundill receives an MBE for a successful 45-year stint at Pontefract.

The pair how hope to share their racing experiences at Buckingham Palace with the Queen who remains the sport’s greatest ambassador.

“I was deeply shocked when I opened the letter,” he said. “Apart from the fact there are plenty of other people in racing who are far more deserving of an award like this than me.

“Also in such a wonderful 
Olympic year like this with so many outstanding achievements in sport honoured and recognised I thought racing would have had a rather thin end of the wedge.

“I am very honoured and mildly embarrassed – I’ve been lucky to have spent 40-plus years in the sport I love and earning a living at the same time.

“I’m delighted for people who have supported me, and my two boys in racing, James and Jonjo, who are both clerks of the course locally. It’s great for racing, but I’m sure there are more people deserving than I.”

Born in Lincolnshire and a qualified chartered accountant, Mr Sanderson’s grounding in racing from his uncle Major Leslie Petch, who was clerk of the course at York.

Joining staff at the Knavesmire as assistant manager in 1966, he combined that with being a director and clerk of the course at Redcar as well before moving to Thirsk to do the same job there. At the age of 29, Mr Sanderson had been the youngest person in Britain to be appointed clerk of the course.

Having completed 20 years at York he started the company International Racecourse Management that managed Phoenix Park racecourse in Dublin before its closure as well as tracks like Doncaster, Catterick, Wetherby and Redcar.

Mr Gundill joined the administration team at Pontefract in 1967 and has held the positions of company secretary, managing director and clerk of the course in his enduring 45-year association. For many years, he combined these roles with his work as a solicitor in the town before finally concentrating on racecourse duties in 2009.