The man at the helm of Cartmel Racecourse is leaving after 18 months in charge.

Steve Cooper worked for six years at Manchester United Football Club prior to joining Cartmel and an opportunity to rejoin the club means he will leave at the end of next month.

Mr Cooper, managing director of Holker Racing and Leisure, said: "I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here at Cartmel.

"It's known nationwide as a special course with a magical atmosphere and for very good reason."

He was instrumental in setting up a new hospitality venue at the track in collaboration with Michelin-starred chef Simon Rogan, and refurbishments of the grandstand and the stables.

Mr Cooper added: "I'm sad to be leaving, particularly after we have worked so hard as a team this past 18 months to bring forward exciting projects like the improvements to the stables complex, the Louis Roederer suite and the grandstand.

"And with the launch of our new trackside restaurant Rogan & Co at the Races on Saturday, we're certain this is going to be a great season for racegoers, owners, trainers and staff.

"I'll be leaving at the end of this month to take up a rare opportunity to rejoin Manchester United. "However, I know Cartmel will be in very safe hands going forward with a team of dedicated and passionate people at its helm."

Allen Gibb, chief executive of the Holker Group of which the racecourse forms a part, said: "It's a real blow for us.

"He's revolutionised a number of things. He's led on so many fronts and built on the tremendous base that Jonathan Garratt had developed over previous years."

Mr Garratt will return for July and August as a consultant, and the racecourse, owned by the Holker Group, is looking to recruit a permanent replacement for Mr Cooper.

Mr Cooper relocated to South Cumbria with his family from Chester to take up the racecourse role.

At Old Trafford, he headed-up its in-house catering operations and became head of service delivery.

His background in operations and events management, including several years at Jockey Club Catering and Aintree Racecourse.