New Cheltenham Racecourse boss Ian Renton is under starter's orders for Showcase meeting
IAN Renton begins a "wonderful" new chapter in his career today when he takes charge of a race-meeting at Cheltenham for the first time.
The newly-appointed Prestbury Park chief – officially regional director, Cheltenham and the South West – will share the duties at the Showcase meeting with outgoing managing director Edward Gillespie, who steps down on November 2.
Renton, formerly managing director of major racecourse operator Arena Leisure, was Gillespie's assistant from 1985 to 1988 before going on to take a number of varied and high-profile roles within racing.
"The place has changed massively since I was here in the 1980s," said Renton.
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"The crowds for the Festival were probably half of what they are now and the Open would probably be even less than half.
"The success of Cheltenham is just immense over the last 20-odd years and I think the service we are providing has improved massively as well and now it's about continuing that journey and continuing to improve.
"The first time I worked here was my first job in racing.
"Like now, I was so excited to be working here and learning things with Edward was fantastic.
"Edward has been in charge for exactly 100 Festival days and has worked tirelessly, enthusiastically and with great passion to make Cheltenham the success it is today.
"I'm incredibly excited about the new job.
"It is lovely for me to get back to the grassroots of racing at such a high level.
I've always loved Cheltenham and I love jump racing.
"It's a wonderful opportunity to look after the home of jump racing."
Renton, who lives just outside Oxford, said building links within Gloucestershire was one of his priorities.
He accepts it will take time for him to get anywhere near the profile enjoyed by Gillespie, but he prepared to work on it.
Renton: "I think certainly a very major area for me to concentrate on is getting to know the local connections.
"I haven't been based in Gloucestershire for 25 years.
"I know some people here but I will be spending a lot of time getting to know the local community in the same way Edward has achieved over 32 years.
"I can't pretend over the space of a few years I'm going to get near to what he's achieved, but I think building up those relationships is an important part of my job."
Whatever great days Cheltenham provides for Renton in the future, he will never forget an exceptional event at Prestbury Park on March 13 1986.
It was the day the mighty mare Dawn Run won the Gold Cup under Jonjo O'Neill to complete an unprecedented Champion Hurdle-Gold Cup double.
Recalling that unforgettable race, Renton said: "It was just one of those wonderful occasions when history was potentially going to be re-written.
"I can recall watching that race and thinking she was beaten, as most of the other racegoers here thought, and seeing her show that wonderful bravery to get up and win that race and create history."