David Nicholson Newcomer Category
(For employees who have worked in racing for less than two years)
Victoria Blueman – £3,000 and £3,000 to her colleagues
Employer: Lucy Wadham, Newmarket
9 months in racing
Vicky joined the yard after time at the Northern Racing College, prior to which she had never ridden, although she had always wanted to work with horses. Life has been a struggle for Vicky, who after her mother’s death when she was 12 basically had no family support and fell out of the education system. She has a high work rate, a phenomenal work ethic, an invariably cheerful approach, a great eye for detail and a natural affinity with horses.
She is looking forward to learning even more, wanting to gain more broad experience before fixing on a particular direction, maybe of travelling with horses. She is also looking forward to being involved in breaking in horses.
Nathan Alison – £2,000
Employer: Jim Boyle, Epsom
15 months in racing
Having had to relinquish his career as a professional footballer after being told he was too small to make the next level, Nathan was spotted by an ex jockey and joined Jim Boyle’s yard. With no previous experience of horses he learnt to ride on the pony in the yard and moved on to the British Racing School coming top of his group with Distinction. He sets an example to the other lads even though he is the youngest. His footballing background has helped him understand some of the injuries sustained by horses and the importance of nutrition.
He represents the yard as they would wish to be represented. He spends time talking to owners who love chatting with him in the yard and many have pledged him rides once he gets his licence.
Since joining the sport he harbours an ambition to be a jockey – not just average but the best. Having lost one dream in football, he has transferred his ambitions into racing. However it is important to Nathan that he achieves this in the right spirit. He loves that racing is a team game, but that there is also room for the individual to shine.
Dorothy Kmon – £2,000
Employer: Pam Cockerill, Providence Stud, Yorkshire
20 months in racing
Growing up on a small farm in Poland, Dorothy found herself working on a potato farm in Yorkshire, next door to Providence Stud and, with her love of horses, asked if she could join them. She immerses herself in the Racing Post, the Stallion book, books about foaling. She has an innate stockman’s skills and is Ms Fixit personified. Fence mending, water trough fixing are well within her capacity and she most often sees the needs before they are pointed out.
During the year she has come up with suggestions for regrouping of foals, yearlings and mares based on her observation of their growth and pecking order. Her enthusiastic attitude has rubbed off on other staff and motivates them. In the longer term Dorothy hopes that she may be able to help improve conditions for horses in her homeland.
(For those working specifically in the breeding industry)
Charlie Wood – £3,000 and £3,000 to his colleagues
Employer: Simon Hockridge, Side Hill Stud, Newmarket
41 years in Racing
Previously having worked at the National Stud, where some former students included Angus Gould, Anthony Stroud and Teddy Grimthorpe, Charlie has been Stud Groom at Side Hill since 1984 when it was owned by the Duke of Devonshire as a Public Stud before being purchase by Juddmonte Farms. Philip Mitchell, General Manager says Charlie is the epitome of calmness and expertise but his real qualities are being able to spot a foal who is off colour or a mare which is uneasy long before others might do so. He is still fascinating by foaling, every foaling unique and every foal born completely difference. His first mare Asmara had a foal by Never say Die. Some of the foals that made it to the racetrack were Attraction, Viva Pataca and Ask.
The principal function at Side Hill is the foaling of 50-60 mares each season and fillies sales preparations in December. Charlie has responsibility for coordinating the veterinary reproductive work from before foaling to manual pregnancy diagnoses. Charlie monitors each mare in preparation for covering and vaccination and worming programmes are also interpreted and organised by Charlie.
He is excellent at matching the right person for the right job, identifying the strengths of each individual within the team. Following the recruitment last year of 2 students from the Tibor Equestrian Centre in Hungary their transition has exceeded expectations which can be put down to the time and energy Charlie has put into integrating them into the team.
Ian Emes – £2,000
Employer: Nicholas Jones, Coln Valley Stud, Cheltenham
35 years in Racing
Ian started as an apprentice jockey, being Crown Decorators apprentice champion in 1973 and has subsequently been a head lad, travelling head lad and, for nearly 20 years, a stud groom. He has had full responsibility for the Coln Valley Stud mares and offspring for the past 5 years, which means he can be looking after 2 dozen horses at any one time. All the mares are foaled by Ian, and he will break them in and prepare them for training or the sales ring. He maintains the stables and paddocks as if they were his and they are always immaculate. For Ian, spring and summer bring their own rewards; the young stock thriving, watching them mature.
Ian had some notable successes in 2007 when he trained Alvino, a talented jumper trained by Henrietta Knight but which had many problems and retired to stud. It was decided to bring him in and Ian to train him at home with the aim of winning a point-to-point. He ran at Larkhill in February when he won the Coronation Gold Cup after a break of nearly 2 years at odds of 33/1.
Ian also rode in a Charity race in Cheltenham on behalf of the Joneses in aid of the Oxford Children’s hospital on the horse of a neighbour, Chris Wright which he duly won, an enormous thrill for Ian and one for an excellent cause.
Jody Elmes – £2,000
Employer: Barry Reilly, Woodcote Stud, Epsom
17 years in Racing
Jody joined Woodcote Stud in 1995 and has become a totally dedicated and hardworking member of the small team there. Jody takes on sole responsibility when Barry is away from the farm. She makes decisions at all levels about stock welfare, veterinary care and overseeing staff. She has grown from a Stud Hand into a Team Leader capable of making decisions at all levels with confidence. She has prepared 2 Group 1 winners over the years but 2007 saw all her care, attention and rehabilitation skills come to the fore when caring for a brain-damaged foal. She has given this foal a realistic chance to fulfil his potential with her never-say-die positive attitude.
Jody finds the daily handling and care of the foals and yearlings which ultimately results in good behaviour most rewarding. She feels it’s like being a proud parent when their children have been well behaved and good mannered. She was very proud when the boss went to cover Whirly Bird with Jody’s choice of stallion. They also bred Inchberry, Whirly Bird’s older sister who finished a brave fourth in the Oaks.
(For general staff, yard men and work riders)
Sean Travis – £3,000 and £3,000 to his colleagues
Employer: Jeremy Noseda, Newmarket
45 years in racing
Sean started racing in 1956 at the age of 12 with Sam Armstrong, doing evening stables after school. He then went on to work with trainers such as Noel Murless, John Oxley, Jeremy Hindley and Henry Cecil, riding fillies such as Diminuendo, Alleydaress and Chimes of Freedom for the latter. Having been out of racing for 2 years following a bad riding accident, he joined Shalfleet 4 years ago when the intelligence with which he rode each horse was immediately apparent. He has an exemplary attitude around the yard; he earns the respect and friendship of all the staff he comes into contact with.
‘Trav’ did a fantastic job with Simply Perfect in the last 2 years. He developed a fantastic relationship with her, given that 2 leading jockeys said what a hard ride she was. His dedication and patience with her was a major contributory factor to her success at the racetrack winning Group One as both a two and three-year-old. He rides every horse to give it the chance to reach its true potential.
Richard Farmer – £2,000
Employer: Jim Boyle, Epsom
16 years in racing
Having had 200+ rides on the flat with 3 winners, Richard is an excellent work rider. His experience in a show jumping/dealing yard has also given him the ability to use this different discipline to look and judge how a horse can move in an alternative way. He is an exceptional judge of horses, expert at re-schooling claimers or sales horses, assessing what distance would suit a horse and getting them ready for a specific date. He rides each yearling, learning their idiosyncracies and judging which lad might best suit each of them. He wins plenty of best-turned-outs, and has even created his own unique stencils. He has had some great individual achievements with his horses such as Touch of Style, which went wrong just before he was due to run in the Goffs Millions. After surgery and 10 months bringing him back into work, he broke his maiden tag in great style.
The younger members of staff look up to him and he is great with owners. On top of this, he spends every spare minute of the day or night doing odd jobs – transforming the yard after planning permission had been turned down, building grids into boxes to house a companion for some of the more nervous horses, and gutted and repainted the lads’ hostel to make living for them more comfortable. Without Richard the place would probably have fallen down by now!
Brian Proctor – £2,000
Employer: Saeed Bin Suroor/Godolphin, Newmarket
50 years in racing
Age 15 Brian joined Sir Gordon Richards stable, moving on to Major Dick Hern 11 years later. For 28 years he rode some of the most famous racehorses, including Nashwan, Troy, Bustino, Dayjur, Henbit and Brigadier Gerard. Following a career injury he has turned his experience into being the ultimate work rider, joining Godolphin in 1997. He is an exceptional, fearless horseman with a marvellous ability to settle highly-strung types and has endless patience with nervous and young horses.
His knowledge and advice have increased the high standard and performance of other members of staff. One current favourite of Brian’s is Creachadoir who he travelled with to the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Mile last year and who was only just the loser in a great battle with Good Ba Ba. Although it is great to be associated with great horses, Brian also finds it so rewarding to work with the difficult ones. Succeeding in correcting a difficult horse is as satisfying as having ridden work on one that goes on to win a Group One.
(For senior yard and travelling staff, and office administrators such as yard secretaries)
Karen Parris, £3,000 and £3,000 to her colleagues
Employer: William Jarvis, Newmarket
19 ½ years in Racing
Karen has worked as Head Girl for William Jarvis for the past 7 years. She is dedicated, tireless and never hesitates to give up her free time for the yard. She’s at the yard at 5.30am every morning and is the last to leave. Once, when a blizzard made driving impossible, she walked the 5 miles to the yard. There is nothing she cannot turn her skills to, breaking in all the yearlings, riding work, organising the running of the yard, feeding and travelling horses and supervise their training schedule. She knows the horses intimately, how they move, stand and feed so she knows immediately whether there is something amiss.
She has brought young and inexperienced staff on through the yard. She has encouraged staff through NVQ qualifications, mentoring someone from riding the yard pony to winning an apprentice race, and encouraging those on work experience. She is patient and generous in sharing her knowledge and expertise. She is conscious that for some English is not their first language and makes sure therefore that any instructions are clear.
A couple of years ago Karen was kicked whilst leading but continued on with other staff not realising how badly she’d been injured; ending up having emergency surgery and spending 2 ½ weeks in hospital.
Karen won’t take her full holiday but recently raised nearly £3000 for Racing Welfare riding on safari in Kenya.
AA (Corky) Browne – £2,000
Employer: Nicky Henderson, Lambourn
50 Years in Racing
Corky joined Nicky Henderson 29 years ago as Head Lad and the stable has gone from having just a handful of horses in training to over 100 and Nicky says he owes his success to Corky who is at Seven Barrows basically 24/7. His performance is legendary, his ability to identify and subsequently repair all injuries is outstanding – vets agree he is seldom wrong about any injury.
The training and well-being of new lads and lasses is paramount, Corky is a father figure to many of them with his door always open to those for whom being away from home for the first time is a daunting experience. He instils in them the importance of hard work, punctuality and the willingness to watch and learn. It’s great for Corky when he sees his protoges going on and having a career within racing.
To Corky, the training of staff is a close second to the health, happiness and success of the many horses under his care and supervision. And the wellbeing of his Guv’nor is up there too!
Helen Shepherd – £2,000
Employer: Ferdy Murphy, Yorkshire
6 years in Racing
Helen came to Wynbury in 1997 for 2 weeks’ work experience. She joined the yard full-time in 2001, moving on to other yards to gain experience and returned to Wynbury as Racing Secretary, taking the Racing Secretaries course at Newmarket.
Her role is multi-faceted. She operates an open-door style, acting as a surrogate sister to members of staff with emotional, health or family problems, vital with a diverse ethnic workforce, some of whom have never worked abroad previously and with different levels of riding ability. She encourages tolerance, for staff to think for themselves and become more confident. She has overseen the care of horses with injuries. This last year she orchestrated a very successful Open Day to involve the yard in the community. She manages the induction programme with new staff with considerable emphasis on Health & Safety and as brought on a number of staff to attain higher standards and self-confidence. She liaises with owners, the media, and maintains consistently high standards across all disciplines. Helen likens running a yard to running the United Nations; she is the lynchpin of the operation.
(For those who have shown bravery, courage or outstanding achievement in the course of their work)
Katie Clark – £3,000 and £3,000 to his colleagues
Employer: Henrietta Knight, West Lockinge
10 years in Racing
Katie has shown unbelievable courage in the face of adversity. While working at West Lockinge Farm as a full-time stable lass in Summer 2005 she was suffering severe back pain, which ended with her having to stop work in October of that year. She was diagnosed with Aggressive Hodgkins Lymphnoma which she had probably been suffering from for 3 year and underwent extensive chemotherapy.
Katie was severely depressed but was determined to beat the cancer and return to look after the horses she loved. She received virtually no Government financial support and although small amounts of money were raised through open mornings in the yard, from Racing Welfare and from owners’ contributions she continued to struggle. In January 2007 she was put into isolation in an Oxford hospital for a month. When she came out it was painful to see such a changed girl, but she still raised a smile and talked about her horses. By March 2007, although not strong enough to ride or work, she led up one of her charges, Aztec Warrior at Cheltenham which she says was one of her best days ever. She was back doing what she loved.
Katie says that if it wasn’t for the yard and her horses to keep focused on, she doesn’t think she would have made the recovery she has done. To be trusted to care for and ride 2 classy chasers such as Aztec Warrior and Racing Demon makes Katie very proud. ‘Being at the racecourse is seeing the end result to all your hard work at home, whether they win or run really well you know all your work has been worth it. You’re not going to be busting your arse to get back for an office job now are you?’
Jerry Walsh – £2,000
Employer: Paul Webber, Banbury
35 years in racing
Paul says it’s impossible to illustrate all Jerry’s talents; he is a tremendous guardian of yard morale. From the moment the horses are getting ready to travel, whether racing, to the vets, sales or wherever, they are in the safest possible hands.
He is a wonderful tutor both at the races and in the yard to the younger, less-experienced members of staff. He insists on riding out 2 horses to feel their well-being for himself – as a jockey he once beat Tingle Creek so he knows what he is doing!
His highlight of 2007 was Full House winning at Royal Ascot. The horse can get very wound up, and needed to be kept calm. His win was so special to the whole yard. Jerry says there is no better feeling that coming back in with a winner; it makes up for every horrible wet and disappointing day you have to learn to cope with in racing.
Katie Whyte – £2,000
Stable Girl – employer Lucinda Russell, Kinross …
15 months in racing
Suffering from arthritis, Katie found it hard to hold a pencil at school; through determination and application she has learned how to hold a horse on the gallops. Katie was told she could be in a wheelchair by the time she was 30 and was advised not to ride. She underwent hydrotherapy, had drugs and injections and 3 monthly assessments and was often angry and sore.
She is one of the most reliable, happy and effective people in the team. She is trusted with top horses and her enthusiasm is transferred to them. She has nurtured and inspired Incas from stale horse to multiple-winning horse. Lucinda says you would not realise she’s any different from anyone else in the yard and indeed is more positive than most.
Katie now has yearly check-ups, and fewer medicines. She says that maybe riding hasn’t been so bad for her after all!
Stable Employee of the Year 2008
Sean Travis – £12,500 plus £12,500 to be shared amongst his stable colleagues