A head girl who has shown “unwavering dedication and loyalty” took home the top prize at the Godolphin Stud & Stable Staff Awards.
Rebecca “Beck” Edmunds, of Bryan Smart Racing, won the leadership award and was then named the 2021 employee of the year at the virtual event (22 February), taking home £30,000 to be split between her and the team.
She was nominated for the awards by her boss, who cited Beck’s “exceptional knowledge, unwavering dedication and loyalty” and her attention to detail when working with both horses and humans.
Beck told H&H the nomination letter “made her cry” and she was “over the moon” to win.
“I’m so proud of all the people I work with, I know it was my name on the award, but we are a team and this is for them,” she said.
“My job is preparing racehorses and you find the keys to make them perform to their best, and it is very similar with the staff.
“To me, they are my family and nobody comes into this yard without me trying to get to know a bit more about them.
“People find it much easier to communicate with you if you understand them.”
She added that she likes knowing the staff trust they can talk to her in confidence and by getting to know the team, it means they can spot if someone isn’t quite themselves. She has also undertaken Racing Welfare’s mental health first aid course.
“You can’t fix everyone, but you can be there for them and I can get them the help they need, if they need it, and there is a lot available,” she said.
She said looking after the staff and making an effort to keep up morale, particularly though Yorkshire’s harsh winters and the pandemic (“some haven’t been able to go home”), is very important.
Alongside the big things that make for a happy work environment, she added little gestures such as tubs of chocolate to cheer the lads up in miserable weather and making an effort on birthdays, don’t take much but show people they are valued.
“If you can just make somebody smile once a day, that’s a good thing,” she said, adding she sees herself a “bit of a mother hen”.
After graduating from Moreton Morrell, Beck worked in a hunting and thoroughbred breeding yard, through which she met her husband, Kevin, who is now Bryan Smart’s assistant trainer. The couple spent a couple of years at a National Hunt yard, when the head lad position came up at Bryan Smart’s.
Kevin got the job and Beck started riding out, before joining full time and worked her way up from being a stable lass to head girl over the last 17 years.
“I’ve been in that position ever since,” she said, adding she loves her job. “The horses’ welfare is always put first and foremost in this yard and that’s why we get on so well with the boss.
She said the bond you form when working with horses and those quiet one-on-one moments are what make the job so special.
“There is nothing better than riding a horse at near-on 40mph — there is nothing like that buzz. It is a thrill and a privilege that these horses trust us enough to let us ride them,” she said.
Nick Luck, chair of the judging panel, said Beck is “a most deserving winner” and her colleagues “should rightly feel very proud”.
“There surely cannot be many prizes as difficult to judge as the Godolphin Stud and Stable Staff Awards. Everybody nominated is so deserving of the recognition winning brings and it was a pleasure to get to know the individuals put forward by their colleagues for consideration this year,” he added.
“We know that the continuation of racing over the past few months has had a positive impact on the mental health of the sport’s fans during a most difficult year, so it is right that we acknowledge the sacrifices made by racing staff to make this possible. These dedicated and talented people have worked hard throughout to provide world-class care to our horses, ensuring they are fit and ready to perform at the highest level for our entertainment.
“My congratulations go to all of our winners this evening, as well as those nominated. I also would also like to extend the thanks of the judging panel to racing staff for their incredible work in the last 12 months.”
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The full list of finalists and winners are as follows (winners in bold):
Jaydon Lee – Nicky Henderson
Alice Price – Ben Pauling
Chrissie Sykes – Ruth Carr
Alex Cairns – James Fanshawe
Rebecca “Beck” Edmunds – Bryan Smart
Lauren Webb – Daniel & Claire Kubler
Joanna Łacisz – Sir Michael Stoute
Sarah Peacock – Tom George
Faisal – Richard Phillips
Tom Hughes – Hazelwood Bloodstock
Martin Languillet – Fittocks Stud
Elody Swann – Newsells Park Stud
Guianand Bissessur – William Haggas
Debbie Howie – John Gosden
Joline Saunders – Richard Phillips
Also honoured was Richard Phillips, who collected the Community Award, presented in recognition of the wonderful work Rory MacDonald achieved at the British Racing School. The runners-up were: Simon Jones (Charity Fundraiser) and Samantha Trainor (National Horseracing College).
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