Six racing workers from Newmarket are guaranteed a share of £125,000 prize money after being named as finalists in this year’s Godolphin Stud and Stable Staff awards
Now in their 14th year the awards, which will be presented as part of a glittering ceremony at the Jumeirah Carlton Towers Hotel in London’s Knightsbridge on Monday, recognise and reward the skills, commitment and contribution of racing’s 6,000 stud and stable staff who work tirelessly behind the scenes of the racing and thoroughbred breeding industries.
Ed Chamberlain, of ITV Racing will present the awards, along with guest host former Liverpool and England football star, now enthusiastic racing stable owner Michael Owen.
Faisal Tahir, who works for Saville House trainer, Henry Spiller, has been in the UK for 14 years arriving from his native Pakistan in 2004. His nomination described him as a “supremely gifted rider” and added: “It is an indication of his loyalty and dedication to the horses he rides that he has remained at a smaller yard like Savile House.
He has done this because he likes to have the time to spend with the horses he cares for, and goes about all aspects of his job with the minimum of fuss and the maximum amount of professionalism. All those who work with him, including the trainer, have benefited from his experience and his tenderness with the racehorses he comes into contact with.”
Joining Faisal as a finalist in the rider/groom category is Petra Sebestikova who joined trainer Luca Cumani’s team at Bedford House Stables in 2009 where she has honed her natural talent in the saddle to become one of the team’s most valued members of staff.
“Petra has a quiet, cheerful disposition and has a knack of being able to calm the most fractious of horses. She helps to mentor and encourage young riders and looks after the horses in her care to an incredibly high standard. If they are injured she continues to follow their progress making regular visits to see how they are recuperating, just one of the reasons she is a truly exceptional member of the team,” said her nomination.
Challenging for the leadership award is Ed Murrell who, since joining the Juddmonte stud operation on a permanent basis in 2001, has worked his way up and was made assistant stud manager at Banstead Manor in Cheveley, home to the great Frankel, in January.
His nomination highlighted his “exceptional people management skills” and said he played a key role in ensuring the smooth working of the stud. It added: “Having experienced the benefits of work experience himself, Ed also ensures young people who have a keen interest in the industry have had the opportunity to learn and develop from their Juddmonte experience. Ed is positive, encouraging, hardworking, committed and dedicated. He is not only a team player but also a highly-respected leader within Juddmonte’s Newmarket operation.”
Danny James, who works at his father’s Brookside Stud in Chippenham, admitted he was a “bit embarassed” to have made the final list for the stud staff award. However the father of four now 42, is used to the limelight in another life when as a professional boxer, the former stable lads’ champion held the record for the fastest knockout, just 13 seconds.
His nomination came through his actions above and beyond the call of duty when he took on hours of extra work alongside his usual role to help contain an outbreak of the EHV-1 virus. By setting up, caring for and foaling three potentially infected mares at an isolated location he showed true dedication and prevented what could have been a disaster for the stud.
Rory Macdonald is a name that will forever be associated with Newmarket’s British Racing School. He died suddenly in 2015 just a year after he had retired as the school’s chief executive, a post he had held for 22 years. To honour his memory the Godolphin Stud and Stable Staff Racing Community Award, was renamed the Rory MacDonald Community Award.
And Rory would no doubt be proud that two Newmarket stalwarts are in the running for the prize this year. Peter Williams has been at the British Racing School for 13 years and his nomination recognises his commitment in promoting his love of racing to others which has seen him go above and beyond the call of duty on many occasions helping to nurture countless students who have been struggling.
“There is no one activity or achievement that Peter deserves particular credit for, rather it is the sum of his total contribution and dedication to furthering the aspirations of so many that visit the BRS to start or further their careers in racing that make him an inspiration to all who work with him,” said his nomination.
The Racing Centre’s Angela French known affectionately as the keep-fit lady, has been a familiar figure at the centre and its predecessor the New Astley Club, for more than three decades. She has helped countless current and retired racing staff through her passion for healthy living as well as mucking in with mopping, cleaning and helping behind the bar in the early days and her involvement in numerous charity events which have raised huge sums for racing staff over the years.
“Angela has always been an invaluable member of the team and The Racing Centre would not be what it is today with her years of fantastic commitment and hard work,” said her nomination.
The winner of each of the first four categories will receive a prize of £5,000 with an additional £5,000 also being awarded to the winner’s yard or stud. Two runners-up in each of these categories will win £2,000 each, with the same amount going to their yard or stud.
The winner of the Rory MacDonald Community Award will receive £5,000, with the same going to a charity of their choice. The two runners-up will receive £2,000, with the same going to a charity of their choice.
The finalists have been chosen, from an original entry of more than 250, by a panel of judges chaired by racing writer Brough Scott who said : “The nominations for this year’s awards have been as competitive as ever, with countless examples of people going above and beyond to look after the horses in their care and keep yards and studs in working order.”
The awards will also see the Employee of the Year chosen from the winners of the first four categories. They will receive an additional prize of £15,000, with the same amount going to their yard or stud.