The annual Animal Health Trust (AHT) Equestrian Awards were a glittering occasion, not just for the diamonds and couture dresses but also for the twinkle in the eyes of the industry, congratulating themselves on yet another fabulous year.

The event at London’s Royal Lancaster Hotel by Hyde Park, took place on 1 November, raising thousands of pounds for the AHT and its pioneering research to improve the health and welfare of horses, dogs and cats. And it culminated in a special achievement award for Professor “Twink” Allen, for his pioneering work with the now closing equine fertility unit at Newmarket. First award of the evening, the Flat Racing Award sponsored by the new Great Leighs racetrack at Chelmsford, went to trainer Geoff Huffer and his 2,000 Guineas winning colt Cockney Rebel.

Professor “Twink” Allen

Professor “Twink” Allen

Mr Huffer, whose colourful career also includes a stint as drummer for the Troggs said: “[Cockney Rebel] shows that everyone has a chance. Everyone loves an underdog.” Also nominated were Frankie Dettori and Dylan Thomas. Recipient of the Arena Leisure National Hunt Racing Award was Gold Cup winner Kauto Star, beating champion jockey AP McCoy and trainer Evan Williams to the post. Owner Clive Smith praised his “really fantastic horse” and Paul Nicholls and his team at Ditcheat.

Britain’s highest placed individual dressage rider at the Europeans, Anna Ross-Davies seemed overcome with emotion to have beaten Steph Croxford and Lee Pearson to the Berkeley Group Dressage Award. “I am truly honoured,” she said, thanking owner Donald McTaggart for his unwavering support and her mount, Leibling II for being a “wonderful horse”.

Clayton and Lucinda Fredericks, Anna Ross-Davies, Clive Smith, Jeff Huffer, Libby Archer and Professor Allen

(Left-to-right) Clayton and Lucinda Fredericks, Anna Ross-Davies, Clive Smith, Jeff Huffer, Libby Archer and Professor Allen

Then it was a case of age before beauty in the BSJA Show Jumping Award, with 52-year-old John Whittaker beating his 21-year-old niece Ellen and 16-year-old pony European gold medal winner, Zoe Adams. John was not able to attend as he was competing in Stockholm. Another horse beat the riders in the Petplan Equine Eventing Award, which was won by Lucinda Fredericks’ little mare Headley Britannia. “Brit came to us to be sold but nobody wanted her, who wants a little chestnut mare?” said Lucinda, of the 15.2hh Burghley and Badminton winner. “Now I’d like to think that everyone does,” she added.

Nominated alongside “Little Brit” was Sam Barr, of the Limbury Stud and GB junior and young riders team trainer Gill Watson. Libby Archer, who for the past 16 years has been responsible for veterinary research grants from the Horseracing Betting Levy Board, won the Fort Dodge Veterinary Achievement Award.

A standing ovation greeted the winner of the Lexington Insurance Voluntary Service Award, The Bransby Home of Rest for Horses and founder Peter Hunt. Mr Hunt told of his youth growing up in the south of London and how he fell in love with the horse “the noblest conquest of man”. Great Leighs also announced that they would be supporting the home of rest, in Saxilby, Lincolnshire, with an annual £5,000 donation.

Peter Hunt

Peter Hunt (right)

But the big award of the evening, as far as the 400 guests were concerned, was the Martin Collins Special Award to Twink Allen. Twink professed to ha been ‘flabbergasted’ by his award but it came as no surprise to his peers, that Twink should be rewarded with his retirement announced at the end of the year.

“Funding for the equine fertility unit has been withdrawn, due to the stupidity and short-sightedness of some people and is about to close, but I hope it will arise again,” he said, before claiming, with trademark modesty, that his career was due to the brilliance of those working around him.