NASS SPECIAL MERIT AWARD
WINNER: George McGrath (£5,000)
Employer – Willie Musson
Position – Travelling Head Lad
George is a genuine horseman who does a great job and is dedicated to his profession. He understands horses and humans alike; he doesn’t shut off when he clocks off. If a horse needs extra attention, he’s there. If a staff member needs help, he’s there.
In his long years in Racing, he is well-placed to support new staff, and is loyal, reliable and respected. He is a top-class Exercise Rider and can handle all horses, from the quirky two-year olds to the old stagers; an ability which he encourages other staff to have. George has a cheerful disposition and keeps morale high. Everyone gets confidence from him, particularly on racedays; travelling horses, a stressful job, is second nature to him, always carried out professionally and the horses cared for to a high standard. He makes a difficult and challenging job seem easy, and wouldn’t ask anyone to do a job he wouldn’t do himself.
George also undertakes the role of President of NASS (National Association of Stable Staff), which is important for the whole of Racing. He understands the importance of his role in keeping racing going through tough economic times, as the voice for the crucial, but sometimes forgotten, Stable Staff. He has a passion and belief in Racing for today and for the future. He works tirelessly to make Racing a more attractive career, understanding the need for change, and the importance of encouraging the public through the gates. The stable isn’t high profile, but everyone there knows that George puts the same attention and care into the horses as he would anywhere, because of his dedication and love of the horse.
Peter Cornwell, the Owner who has nominated George in this category, says that, in his dictionary, George McGrath is the definition of dedication, and hopes you agree.
WINNER: Ben Howe (£5,000, plus £5,000 to be shared amongst his colleagues)
Employer – Mrs Ruth Carr
Position – Stable Lad
Ben started working for Trainer Ruth Carr straight from school, having come from a non-horsey background with his only previous experience gained from helping out in a local Livery Yard. However, within two weeks of starting work, Ruth knew she wanted Ben to work for her permanently.
Ben has now become a huge asset to his yard. He is first to volunteer to start early, work a Bank Holiday or go to a fixture at Wolverhampton on a Saturday night. He is enthusiastic at all times, even when asked to do menial yard duties, like cleaning the drains. He is keen to ride all the different types of horses in the Yard, including the difficult or frustrating ones, and is already backing the homebred Yearlings.
Shortly after Ben started working for Ruth, he was booked into do the 12-week Northern Racing College Foundation Course. However, he was so impressive that he was fast-tracked, and completed it in only 6 weeks. He has now completed his Level 2 and is awaiting results of his end of NVQ test.
Always keen to learn and improve his skill, Ben will often do this in his own time and at his own cost. During his annual holiday, he got up at 6am, walked to York Station, caught a train to Doncaster and a taxi to the Northern Racing College. He mucked out, rode out with the other students and then spent afternoons on the Equiciser, improving his technique. He was then allowed to school the horses and practice putting them through the stalls. He did this for a whole week in his own time!
Polite, cheerful, enthusiastic and just 17 years old, his Trainer believes he is already showing the signs of making a good Head Lad or Assistant Trainer in the future.
RUNNER-UP: Amie Trow (£2,000, plus £2,000 to be shared amongst her colleagues)
Employer – David Lanigan
Position – Rider/Groom
For someone so young, Amie has adopted a huge sense of responsibility. Always first in the Yard with a smile on her face, she never has to be asked twice to do anything. She is a natural with the horses, and always does her work to the highest standard.
Amie came to work for David Lanigan during only his second year of training. Straight from graduating the British Racing School, she had relatively limited experience. However, as the training operation grew, so did Amie. Her riding has improved so quickly that after just a year, she was backing nearly 80% of the Yearlings. She has had plenty of falls but, unlike a lot of people, she is always determined to get back up and finish the job. Also, despite these many falls when breaking the Yearlings, she has never taken a day off as a result.
All of the horses that Amie has looked after have won. This might be a case of luck being on her side, but David believes that her attentiveness, and happy attitude around the horses, has an effect on their wellbeing. She is constantly upbeat and her cheerfulness and enthusiasm has an effect on the whole yard. According to her Trainer, the Yard is definitely a better place with Amie in it.
RUNNER-UP: Jade Walters (£2,000, plus £2,000 to be shared amongst her colleagues)
Employer – Paul Nicholls
Position – Stable Lass
Ever since Jade joined Paul Nicholls’ team, she has stood out. Already more than capable when she started 18 months ago, she has improved almost daily to become one of the most valued members of the Work-Riding team.
Jade very quickly got the hang of riding the tricky Gallops at Ditcheat. The Flat Gallop, where most of the fast work is done, requires a lot of skill and control, and Jade mastered this straight away. Her feedback is always accurate and valued, and she is now capable of riding work on any horse. Away from the Gallops, she demonstrates an understanding of a horse’s fitness program and how her feedback on general health will affect that.
At only 20 years old, Jade is current proof that you can start with little experience and, with hard work, achieve great things very quickly. Her work ethnic has been passed on to other staff and she creates a great working environment. No-one wants to be left behind and, with Jade raising the bar, the other members of staff have achieved more as a consequence.
Jade loves her job and horses, and always puts them first. A dedicated team player, she is reliable and well-mannered.
WINNER: David Bradley (£5,000 and £5,000 to be shared amongst his colleagues)
Employer – Jeremy Noseda
Position – Head Man
David, or ‘Brad’ as he is commonly known by his friends and colleagues, gained great experience in Dubai, where he played a vital role for Godolphin from the outset. After being such a valued member of their team, he went on to take a placement at an Equine Hospital, where he markedly widened his skill set in terms of diagnoses and treatments, making him an even more valuable asset for a racing operation.
Jeremy says that Dave is the best ally he could ever wish for. His coolness under pressure, his focus, his experience, and his rounded ability make his a huge asset to the Yard too. When things do go wrong, he doesn’t allow situations to escalate. As a sounding board, and supplier of solutions, he is second to none. He has a fabulous eye for a horse and is quick to detect the first signs of a potential problem.
Dave effectively mentored Tom Morley, who has worked for Jeremy as Pupil Assistant for the past 3 years. Dave taught him everything from bandaging and coordinating the work-board to feeding and fitting all the different types of bridle. Tom is now someone who could run a Training Yard in the absence of a Trainer, which came as a result of Dave’s immeasurable input. He also accompanied Dave to Dubai, where Dave was overseeing the Yard’s Carnival team to great effect, with Vague and Stagelight winning UAE Classics, and Majors Cast running up a series of wins.
Jeremy says there are 101 ways in which Dave benefits the team, but key is how he handles responsibility. He bore huge responsibility in Jeremy’s absence at Keeneland Yearling Sales, with Sixties Icon’s successful St Leger bid in 2006. His maturity and level head guaranteed that Jeremy could breathe easy, knowing the horse would receive the level of attention such a day required. Jeremy says that Dave is, by a considerable margin, the best member of staff he’s had the fortune of working with at Shalfleet.
RUNNER-UP: Alex Bevan (£2,000, plus £2,000 to be shared amongst her colleagues)
Employer – Alan McCabe
Position – Assistant Trainer
Alan says that Alex is the lynchpin of his team – her easy manner is coupled with total unflappability; nothing ever makes her panic. She treats everyone, from the rookie Stable Lad to the wealthy Owner, with the same friendly and respectful demeanour.
Alex began working for the Yard after phoning for a position allowing her to ride out. Alan was immediately impressed not only by her skills as a horseman, but by her sensibility and personable nature, and she was offered a position as Assistant Trainer.
Alex is a student of Equine Science and is keen to teach young staff the causes and effects of training methods, illnesses and injuries. She combines her work with her studies, inspiring others to do the same. By the time you recognise a problem, be it with the staff or horses, the chances are that Alex has already identified if and is dealing with it. She never needs to be asked to do anything as she is always on guard.
She is an organiser, a friend and a trustworthy person. She can laugh and joke with the staff, but none will ever abuse that friendliness and will always do their work to the required standard because no-one would ever want to let her down. She is also an exceptional mediator between Staff and Trainer – getting the jobs done, whilst keeping everyone happy and on-side.
Alan says that Alex is highly deserving of her nomination and they are extremely lucky to have her.
RUNNER-UP: Barry O’Dowd (£2,000, plus £2,000 to be shared amongst his colleagues)
Employer – John Gosden
Position – Assistant Trainer
Barry came into Racing aged 12, riding out for Michael Purcell in Ireland, and was sent over to Barry Hills for two month’s experience when aged 15. This translated into over 20 years when he worked his way up the ladder at Manton. He would also ride jumpers during the winter and had over 60 rides, including four at The Festival.
John says that, on his arrival at Manton, Barry immediately impressed him with his efficiency and friendly manner, and in a short time had been made Travelling Head Lad. In his time spent travelling around the world, he exemplified the ability to avoid problems by thinking ahead, and ensuring the horses came to their races in peak condition.
Given his experience in starting within the industry at such a tender age, Barry is particularly sensitive to the daunting demands that young members of staff must overcome. He commands the greatest respect and affection from staff, through his strength of character, his consideration, his good humour and the fact that he has done everything the staff are being asked to do. He transformed a young Canadian Apprentice sent to the yard by the Chris McCarron Academy in Kentucky, from an ordinary Rider into a top-class Work Rider. Within six weeks of his return to Canada, he had ridden winners at the two manor Canadian tracks.
Barry speaks to everyone with the same manners and consideration, be it a junior member of Staff, or an Owner at the races. John says he has a generous character and carries a gravitas that has been acquired by hard work and dedication. John appointed him as Assistant Trainer not only for his instinctive horsemanship, but also for his qualities as a person.
WINNER: Geoffrey Thompson (£5,000, plus £5,000 to be shared amongst his colleagues)
Employer – Sir Michael Stoute
Position – Rider/Groom
Geoff’s intelligence and deep wealth of experience make him a huge asset to leading Trainer, Sir Michael Stoute. Now at the age of 66, he has been working at Freemason Lodge for the last 34 years and his feedback on the horses is invaluable. Like a good Football Manager, he knows which horses need an arm around them and which ones need stronger handling. If Geoff has a concern about a horse, Sir Michael admits that he would be foolish not to listen to him.
There have been so many examples of how Geoff has excelled over the years, but just in the last year, he has made a huge difference to two particular horses in the yard. The first was a well bred three-year-old filly by Giants Causeway, who was refusing to go out with the rest of the string. When Geoff started riding her out on her own, it became evident that she was becoming much more relaxed and easier to train. She ended the season as a Listed-placed and Maiden winner.
The second horse was a tricky Saddlers Wells gelding, which was very difficult in the stable, partial to kicking out. Geoff started looking after him when his usual Groom was on annual leave and, within days, it was evident that Geoff’s cool and reassuring influence had started to work.
Geoff brings a sense of fun to the Yard which is so important through the tough times in racing. Always cracking a joke, he is hugely popular amongst the staff, but also sets the standards in the Yard. After a lifetime in racing, in Stoute’s words, Geoff has been an unsung hero for too long.
RUNNER-UP: Joe Scally (£2,000, plus £2,000 to be shared amongst his colleagues)
Employer – Jeremy Noseda
Position – Stable Lad
Joe is undoubtedly one of Jeremy Noseda’s best Work Riders, and an invaluable asset to his operation. He knows when horses are in good form and he is quick to identify any hints of a problem. He is a dedicated and loyal member of the team, often assisting others with both practical advice and manual assistance.
Going the extra mile is what Joe is all about. One occasion when he demonstrated this was at the 2004 Breeders’ Cup, when he was unexpectedly forced to travel alone the USA with Wilko, who was running in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. If Joe was nervous about travelling to a country he had never been to before, he did not let it show, and did everything right in the time that it took to fly another Groom out to help him. Joe had logged everything that the horse had eaten or left since touching down, and had written comprehensive notes on all other relevant details about the horse. When Wilko won the race, it was obviously a great moment for his Trainer, Jeremy Noseda, as it was his first big break, but it was it was also a great moment for Joe, who had gone beyond what is expected of a Groom.
Joe has a friendly and easy-going manner in the yard and brings a great light- relief to the team. Every year at the annual Christmas party he gives an amusing speech looking back at the highs and lows of the yard. It cumulates with Joe’s awards to varying staff members for feats of note or mirth, which is always eagerly anticipated by the rest of the team. Joe is the man who runs the Cheltenham Tipping Competition or a World Cup sweepstake. He boosts the morale amongst the Noseda team and in many ways, is the heartbeat of the Yard.
RUNNER-UP: Steve Wooley (£2,000, plus £2,000 to be shared amongst his colleagues)
Employer – Andrew Balding
Position – Rider
For over 30 years, Steve has been the number one Work Rider at the historic Balding training establishment, Kingsclere. He has played an important role in every good horse trained at the famous location during that period, either as a Work Rider, or riding the lead horse in a major piece of work.
Nominated by his Employer, Trainer Andrew Balding, Steve has many skills and attributes that make him stand out from the rest. He is an excellent horseman and a perfect role model for all of the younger staff, always leading by example and earning the respect of those around him.
He excels in riding all horses, including the hard pullers and badly behaved colts, a job that he takes within his stride. He has a unique gift of forcing horses to cooperate, without ever resorting to anything more than a slap on the shoulder, or a small dig in the ribs.
Steve has been associated with some of the best horse to have been in training at Kingsclere over the past 30 years, including Selkirk, King of Clubs, Phoenix Reach, Dream Eater, Buccellati and Tagula, not only riding them, but also looking after them.
Always immaculate in appearance, punctual and courteous to owners, Steve is a model employee in every way and Andrew believe that he is highly deserving of this recognition.
WINNER: Graham Paxton (£5,000, plus £5,000 to be shared amongst his colleagues)
Employer – Darley Stud Management
Position: Stud Groom
Liam O’Rourke, who nominated Graham, says that he is a rare individual who has dedicated his entire career, literally from school, to the pursuit of breeding superior Thoroughbred Racehorses. His dedication has been unstinting, and his depth of knowledge gained working with horses of all ages is incomparable.
Graham has managed Rutland Stud on Darley’s behalf, which is the largest of Sheikh Mohammed’s portfolio in the UK, with a year-round staff of ten, overseen by Graham at all times. The farm has become an Equine Academy for young students wishing to pursue a career in the industry. Liam says that Graham has been his benchmark for the purpose of fostering student talent, and those who have excelled under his expert tutelage have gone far in the Thoroughbred World.
Graham has all the attributes that make the best Stud Groom. He is totally dedicated, happily foaling 2-3 mares a night, ensuring that each and every foal had nursed and was healthy and rested, whilst in turn depriving himself of a night’s sleep. He possesses a love and compassion for the Thoroughbred, and will relate with pride all the Stakes winners at whose birth he was present. His amazing foresight and thoughtfulness has saved the Stud many a young foal. His multi-talents mean that he could also be fairly described as a Part-time Vet, Pasture Consultant, Man-Manager, Farm Machinery Coordinator, Stud Tutor and Mentor.
The results that Graham has achieved at Rutland Stud have provided his younger work colleagues with a quality achievement watermark which is extremely difficult to attain. As a consequence, he has raised the stud farming standard to an extremely high level and, in so doing, has gained huge respect from his fellow Stud Grooms.
RUNNER-UP: Sandra Morton (£2,000, plus £2,000 to be shared amongst her colleagues)
Employer – Rosemary Pease, Folly Farm
Position – Stud Groom
Mrs Pease says that Sandra is indispensible to the Stud, and doubts that Folly Farm Stud would have come into existence, or bred one winner, without her incalculable contribution. In fact the Stud has bred winners of at least 126 races globally, winning prize money of about £1.3m.
Sandra has unequalled skills in managing Thoroughbreds. She is always quiet with them and wins their trust and confidence, although is equally able to convince an awkward animal as to who is the boss. Mrs Pease suspects that Sandra has second sight, as she is able to spot potential problems in the future, whether veterinary or behavioural, and takes steps to avoid them. She is also an excellent veterinary nurse, and is now very experienced and skilled at organising feeding.
Sandra does a very good job in preparing the young stock for the sales, often in charge of the consignment until they are through the ring. There are always favourable comments from others on the condition, turn out and behaviour of the youngsters. She keeps the yard at home in pristine condition, painting, or treating the stable, field shelters and fencing during the summer, and arranges repairs to the machinery. She also monitors the state of the grass in the seven paddocks, including cleaning and topping them.
Although there is only a small team at Folly Farm Stud, Sandra’s example of diligence, energy and legendary efficiency inspires others to aspire to these high standards. She organises the work schedule, and fully understands how it must fit in with others’ family demands. Last year when Mrs Pease broke her leg, and subsequently her wrist, Sandra coordinated Stud staff into a nursing team, on top of her other duties.
Mrs Pease says that whenever Sandra goes out on duties to other establishments, there are always hopeful suggestions from other establishments that they might steal her services. Mrs Pease says perish the thought! With Sandra at Folly Farm, the Stud continues on oiled wheels.
RUNNER-UP: Douglas Ventress (£2,000, plus £2,000 to be shared amongst his colleagues)
Employer – Plantation Stud
Position – Stud Groom
Adrian O’Brien, Manager of Plantation Stud, nominated Doug for a life dedicated to the Thoroughbred Breeding industry. Douglas started working for the William Hill owned Sezincote Stud in 1960. During his 17½ years there, he looked after all of the Bloodstock, including Stallions Philip of Spain and Hot Spark.
Doug’s next major role was 20 years with Meddler Stud as Second Man, working with such Stallions as Balidar, Blue Cashmere, Most Welcome, Rock Hopper and Hurricane Sky. In 1999 he joined Plantation Stud, initially under the ownership of Lord Howard de Walden, and remained on as a valued employee when the farm was purchased by Mr Dermot and Perle O’Rourke.
Adrian says that Doug’s kind and soft demeanour means that even the most flighty of equine juveniles cannot help but feel at ease with him. His lifetime of experience, and natural affinity with the horse, makes him invaluable in the day-to-day running of the Stud. He displays a loyalty which is seldom seen these days, and is on a pedestal as a glowing example of a ‘model employee’.
At the Stud, his advice is sought on all horse-related matters, and also some of life’s quandaries. He is invaluable at passing on his unparalleled level of horsemanship to his younger colleagues, and Adrian can think of no better teacher.
Doug considers working with legendary Stallions such as Kris and Slip Anchor a career highlight. Slip Anchor is the oldest living Epsom Derby winner and still resides at Plantation, and it is a great credit to horsemen like Doug who have ensured a long and happy life for such a great horse.
Doug is due to retire soon. It will not just be a loss to Plantation, but a loss to the whole industry. Adrian says that everyone who has had the privilege of working with him, even for the shortest time, will count themselves lucky.
WINNER: Albert ‘Corky’ Browne (£5,000 and £5,000 to be shared amongst his colleagues)
Employer – N J Henderson
Position – Head Lad
Prior to joining Nicky as Head Lad in 1978, ‘Corky’ Brown had been a senior member of Fred Winter’s team. He then assisted Roger Charlton in setting up one of the original Equine Pools in the country.
Corky is not just an outstanding horseman who understands horses instinctively, but an outstanding leader of a large team. He is respected by all staff, past and present, to the point of adoration. Every single one of them would say they have learnt everything they know from Corky.
Corky is in overall charge of the whole operation of approximately 140 horses, and he treats and feeds each one with the same care and attention to detail. There is no-one better at feeding horses, no-one better at diagnosing, understand and treating injuries, and no better leader of a team.
A pro at taking the new and younger members under his wing to reassure them – many of the Yard’s lads and pupils, through Corky’s influence, have gone on to be successful Trainers, or gained other senior posts within the racing industry.
RUNNER-UP: George McGrath (£2,000, plus £2,000 to be shared amongst his colleagues)
Employer –Willie Musson
Position –Travelling Head Lad
RUNNER-UP: David Winsor (£2,000 and £2,000 to be shared amongst his colleagues)
Employer – Jeremy Noseda
Position – Stable Lad
‘George’ has been one of Racing’s unsung heroes, with a glittering CV. He was an Apprentice with Captain Boyd-Rochfort and went on to look after Henry Cecil’s first-ever winner, Celestial Cloud, as well as his first Group 1 winner, Wolver Hollow, back in 1969. He progressed his career to serve as Henry’s Travelling Head Man from 1979 to 1992.
His enthusiasm is extraordinary for a man of 60, but it is his warm infectious personality that wins people round. He is a classic all-rounder. He went to oversee Awesome Act’s 10-week prep for the Kentucky Derby last year.
His experience means that he is the ideal role model f