THE Fox family’s contribution to Irish racing was recognised at Punchestown last Sunday. After approximately 70 years looking after jockeys and their equipment in the weighroom, the family recently sold the business.

Jockey Sean Flanagan is the new owner and he has recruited new staff, allowing Paul and Robbie Fox to gradually step away from the profession.

Their father Dave, who worked in racing for 63 years before his retirement, was also to the fore on Sunday.

Paul Fox told Racing TV: “Our grandfather Jimmy started the business but fell ill at an early age and so our Dad, Dave, took over. Dad is 63 years in the industry, and my brother, Robbie, and I got involved as soon as we finished school.

“So we’re a long time in the background, working away, looking after the guys that matter, the jockeys. We’re a massive family in the weighroom - we see jockeys right through their careers, the good and bad days. We know when to leave them along and when to put an arm around them. The hours are long, the work is tough, but it’s a great place to be.”

Jockeys past and present turned out last Sunday to show their appreciation for the Fox family. From Mouse Morris to Michael Kinane, from Joanna Morgan to Rachael Blackmore, dozens of riders made sure they were there to mark the moment.

One notable well-wisher was Tommy Treacy, who reportedly had not been racing since he retired in 2015, but did not want to miss this event.

Asked why the Fox family had decided to sell-up, Paul said: “Racing has changed and we felt it was time for us to move on. Robbie is 15 years younger than I am. He has young children and it was hard for him to see a normal family life. Valeting is a vocation, not a job.

“We were careful to pass the business on to someone who knew what they were doing. Sean Flanagan was the best choice for us.”

Former jockey Robbie Power added: “Sean is very passionate about it and will do a good job. Things are already going very well for him.”

It remains to be seen if Sean or any of his team will emulate Paul Fox by being the practical joker of the weighroom. Paul admitted: “I’ve been known to play a few tricks on the lads. I often move Paul Townend’s clothes and one day I glued Declan Bates’ shoes to the floor in Ballinrobe. I didn’t think they would stick but Declan had to drive home wearing only socks!”