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Tributes paid to former clerk of the course at Newmarket, Capt Nick Lees

Tributes have been paid to Nick Lees, clerk of the course at Newmarket for nearly 30 years, who died last month aged 83.

Lisa Hancock, now chief executive of the Injured Jockeys’ Fund, who became managing director of Newmarket Racecourses in 2000 when Capt Lees stepped down, said: “I was really sad to hear of Nick’s passing. He really was incredibly generous to me and it is due to his time, and support, that my own career in racing has evolved.

“He offered me the most wonderful opportunity to shadow him at Newmarket when I was 16 years old and it was that summer of following him that sparked my passion for racing and, of course, for the July Course. The Newmarket Nights were very much his initiative and, of course, they have become such a vital part of many racecourses’ activity.”

Nick Lees (61659771)
Nick Lees (61659771)

It was back in 1987, when Capt Lees booked The Spinners, then a popular four-man folk group, who who were soon to retire, to entertain racegoers on the July Course. He could not have imagined then that he was setting a trend which within a quarter of a century would change the face of British summer evening racing and his successors hailed it his greatest contribution to racing.

And where he led, others followed, as fellow racecourse executives realised they could attract bigger and more diverse crowds by putting on concerts after racing and today, the majority of summer racing evening fixtures feature some form of musical attraction.

At Leicester racecourse, a minute’s silence was observed before the first race on Wednesday in memory of Capt Lees, who had been chairman of the racecourse for 15 years, and a director for over 50 years, retiring on December 31, 2021.

Current chairman Marc Nelson said: “Nick has been highly influential in the racing industry and his racing knowledge and wise words were always sought after. He was always great company and was never short of interesting and amusing anecdotes. Our thoughts and deepest sympathy are with his family.”

He is survived by his wife, Jos, and daughters, Sophie and Lottie.