He grew up dreaming of becoming a footballer, but now Liam Johnson is racing on with a career as chief of Huntingdon Racecourse

New Huntingdon Racecourse general manager Liam Johnson. Picture: HELEN DRAKE

New Huntingdon Racecourse general manager Liam Johnson. Picture: HELEN DRAKE - Credit: Archant

New general manager Liam Johnson wants to see the people of Huntingdonshire and beyond flock through the turnstiles at Huntingdon Racecourse.

The curtain goes up on another season of national hunt racing at the local track this Sunday with the ‘Big Family Fun Day’ fixture.

It is the first of seven racedays in the remainder of 2016 with the track staging a total of 17 fixtures between now and next May.

And the new man at the helm, Johnson, is determined to drive up attendances while ensuring the racecourse becomes a focal point for the area.

He said: “My new season agenda is simple – to offer great racing and a fantastic customer experience for all.

“We also need to strive to attract a strong calibre of horses, particularly for our main fixtures such as the Peterborough Chase Day.

“And I’m very keen to try to increase attendances at race meetings as well.

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“I’m fairly new to the area and it’s surprising how many people are fully aware of the racecourse but have never actually attended racing with us. Our job is to hopefully convert these people and get them to attend a great day out at the races.

“The racecourse, in my opinion, should be at the heart of the community. We are in the process of planning ways in which we can start to engage with the community more often. This can be achieved by supporting community events, working with local organisations and offering education around racing, particularly with schools.”

Johnson has been in post since succeeding Sian Williams in July.

He admits it was his experiences in another sport which helped him enjoy a progressive career in racing.

Johnson was a promising footballer in his youth and spent several years in the Notts County youth set-up before going on to play the game at non-league level.

Johnson added: “I grew up wanting to be a footballer and was fortunate enough to be signed by Notts County at the age of nine. I was part of their academy system until 18 when I wasn’t offered a professional contact.

“That was pretty soul-destroying, but I was able to realise pretty quickly that I needed to further my studies and utilise my other skills. I was soon playing semi-pro football for Eastwood Town and coaching at Nottingham Forest.

“I knew early on that I wanted to manage a sporting venue and an opportunity to join the management training programme with The Jockey Club presented itself. That has led me to where I am today.”

There is a seven-race card on Sunday which gets underway at 2.05pm.

A novices handicap chase at 3.45pm, over two-and-a-half miles, is the wealthiest race on the card while champion jockey Richard Johnson is one of several big-name riders set to be show.

All races are sponsored by Brian Martin Pallets and there are plenty of activities being laid on in addition to the racing.

Adult ticket prices begin from £13.50 when booked in advance and there is a family package available for £20, also in advance.

Accompanied children gain free admission.