(For employees who have worked in racing for less than two years)
Paul Lucas (23) – £2,500 and £1,000 to his colleagues
Ground Staff with Andrew Balding
Paul had never handled a horse before joining the yard – he was stacking supermarket shelves two years ago. He is a gentle giant in appearance, and is secretly learning to ride. Paul has quickly developed into a valuable member of the team, is willing to learn and is constantly asking questions. He is able to look after his horses to a far higher standard than you might expect from someone in the job for just two years, and every horse he has looked after has won. He has recently been affected by the loss of one of the horses he cared for, but that has not diminished his enthusiasm. A form expert, and, says Andrew Balding, “any money he happens to win is probably spent on the extra polos and carrots for the horses”.
Paul is most proud that his colleagues now have confidence in him, having amused everyone with his lack of experience when he first joined. The judges were most struck by his enthusiasm.
Alex Duncan (21) – £1,000
Head Groom with Christine Kerr
Alex is the main member of staff at a very small National Hunt yard, the most northerly in Britain. Alex has put a degree in Human Biology and a place in the under 23 Rugby Squad on hold in order to work in racing.
Grace Pohl (21) – £1,000
Intermediate Stud Hand at Dalham Hall Stud
Grace has fulfilled a lifetime dream of working with horses. Her employers highlighted her never failing commitment to the job.
(For those working specifically in the breeding industry)
Susan Titley (35) – £2,500 and £1,000 to her colleagues
Head Girl at Shade Oak Stud
This Shropshire stud has had the leading National Hunt stallion for the last five years and Susan has spent 18 of her 21 years in racing, working at Shade Oak. Integral to the stud’s success, and the turn out of the stallions (she is in charge of all 5 at the stud) to an exceptional standard, Susan is responsible for the overall management of the stud. She is extremely loyal and dependable, always having time for visitors.
Susan has worked her way up from the very bottom, and is most proud of the achievements of her stallions’ offspring.
Tony Ashpole (75) – £1,000
Paddock Manager at Fittocks Stud
Tony has been loyal and hardworking for the last 30 years and Luca Cumani quotes him as being a key component in the creation and success of Fittocks Stud.
Clive Godfrey (61) – £1,000
Stallion Handler at the Royal Studs
Clive has dedicated his life to the stallions and walks two miles every morning to get to work for 5.00 am. His employers highlight his incredible eye for detail and amazing memory. Not one for awards or recognition it took a great deal of encouragement to get him to London to meet the judges.
(For general staff, yard men and work riders)
Larry Poland (58) – £2,500 and £1,000 to his colleagues
Groom with Nicky Richards
Larry has spent over 40 years in racing, 32 of them with Nicky Richards.
He is still riding three lots a day at 58, and his knowledge and experience has been invaluable to both the late Sir Gordon and now Nicky Richards. Truly one of racing’s unsung heroes (he could fit a number of categories), he turns out his horses to perfection. He is very good with younger staff, while simultaneously setting a very high standard for them. He has worked with a number of top jockeys that worked at Greystoke, and looked after the 1984 Grand National winner Hallo Dandy (his proudest achievement, which he describes in detail as though it were yesterday). He takes pride in others asking him for advice and help, and is responsible each summer for preparing the yard for the following season.
Kim Houghton (23) – £1,000
Groom with Nick Littmoden
Kim had no experience of working with racehorses when she started with Nick 5 years ago. She now rides four lots a day and demonstrates a real enthusiasm and love for riding.
John Joyce (58) – £1,000
Groom with Patrick Gilligan
John or ‘Jumbo’ as he is more commonly known, has 40 years experience with several leading trainers and still rides out with enthusiasm in Newmarket every day. He has many a story to tell including managing to pull Slip Anchor up by his throat lash after a rein broke on the gallops.
(For senior yard and travelling staff, and office administrators such as yard secretaries)
Roy Barrett (57) – £2,500 and £1,000 to his colleagues
Head Groom with Len Lungo
Roy has spent over 40 years in racing, including 14 years with Len Lungo (with only one other job, previously with Commander Wilf Crawford).
Roy has played a vital role in his two employers becoming top trainers in Scotland (he has been with Len Lungo from when he took out his training licence). He is in overall charge of the care of the horses, including nursing and bringing horses back from injury. He shows endless patience with young horses – 90% are unbroken when they join the yard – and will meticulously check on each horse upon its return from a day’s racing (the travelling staff and/or trainer will call him when they are two miles from the yard and he will always be there to meet them upon their arrival). He rides out up to 5 lots a day and has a quiet and calm personality, educating riders to as high a standard as he does the horses. Roy has been responsible for Cheltenham and Northumberland Plate winners alike, and brought Celtic Giant back from heart problems to win the Kim Muir.
Jimmy Thompson (48) – £1,000
Head Groom with Michael Jarvis
He has been employed with Michael since he left home at 15 years of age and became Head Groom in July 1994. He had dreamt of becoming a jockey but despite not achieving these dreams he has been a true linchpin of a major team.
John Wilsoncroft (63) – £1,000
Head Groom with Rae Guest
He lists Auriol Sinclair and David Morley as past employers. With Rae Guest for the past 16 years, he is not only a brilliant stable man but a natural teacher and mentor.
(For those who have shown bravery, courage or outstanding achievement in the course of their work)
Gary Wright (61) – £2,500 and £1,000 to his colleagues
Head Groom with Peter Cundell
Gary has spent 47 years in racing, 30 years with Peter and his father Ken Cundell. He will be 62 in May, and has dedicated his life to racing, coping stoically with a vast catalogue of injuries along the way. He has both ankles pinned and plated to hold them together, and his cheek bone has had to be wired after one side of his face was shattered upon being kicked. He has amazing inner strength, and has always returned as determined as ever, remaining positive and passionate about racing. He captivates his colleagues in the yard when talking fondly of the trainers he has worked for. Gary works tirelessly in the shadows, and is the mainstay of the team, members of which will often drop in at his cottage for advice or a chat about the day’s events. He knows exactly how to encourage and boost the confidence of young staff, and will immediately know if something is not right with a horse or colleague. He is most proud of reaching the top rung of his career ladder, and enjoys each day riding out as much as his first in racing.
Lana Gazder (51) – £1,000
Head Groom with Les Montague Hall
Lana has long term knee problems from an old fall and survived a serious head injury, but despite this she not only works tirelessly in the Epsom yard, but also is a dedicated fundraiser for the Brooke Hospital for Horses and breeder of rare chickens including her beloved Dorking breed.
Katie Lumb (21) – £1,000
Head Groom with Kevin Bishop
In just three seasons she has become head groom, despite having to deal with diabetes which in her early years in racing left her in physically exhausted after mucking out. With her diabetes now carefully managed she will happily ride the most difficult horses in the yard.
Stable Employee of the Year 2005
Roy Barrett – £10,000 plus £10,000 to be shared amongst his stable colleagues