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‘Horses changed my life’: Zimbabwean stud worker crowned employee of the year

James Frank from Hascombe and Valiant Stud was crowned employee of the year at the racing industry’s Godolphin Stud and Stable Staff Awards last night (24 February).

Zimbabwean James, who has worked in the racing and bloodstock industry for 17 years, won the stud staff award category, and was then named the evening’s overall winner.

He pocketed an impressive £20,000 in prize money, courtesy of the award sponsors Godolphin, with the same amount shared between staff at the Anthony Oppenheimer-owned Newmarket stud.

ITV Racing presenter Ed Chamberlin and champion Flat jockey Oisin Murphy hosted the London award ceremony, which was organised by the British Horseracing Authority.

The judging panel comprised 12 industry experts, including Brough Scott, who is stepping down as chairman of the panel after 15 years, Mick Fitzgerald, Nick Luck, Guy Disney, Mark Bradburne and last year’s victor Catriona Bissett.

James came to Britain from Zimbabwe in his 20s and was described as a “hard-working and compassionate member of stud staff” with “exceptional skill and patience with tricky young foals and mares.”

His dedication and thorough work over the years has seen him involved in the early stages of some of Flat racing’s greats, including Derby and Arc hero Golden Horn and four-time Group one winner Cracksman.

“I want to say thank you so much to all the judges, Hascombe and Valiant Stud and all those who have supported me,” said James. “Horses have played a big part in my life. The lives of my family and children, who are here tonight supporting me, have been changed through me working in the racing and bloodstock industry.

“If I wasn’t working in this industry, I would probably be back at home in Zimbabwe struggling with life right now — so horses have changed all of our lives for the better.

He added: “My all-time favourite horse has to be Golden Horn, his win in the Derby at Epsom was just phenomenal.”

Brough said: “The panel’s job was as tough as ever this year with some remarkable stories of commitment, hard work and dedication among this year’s finalists.

“But we had to reach a final decision and James is a hugely deserving winner for his years of perseverance and outstanding service to the breeding industry.”

An incredible £128,000 in total prize money was awarded on the evening across the seven categories.

Continues below…



 The winners

Employee of the year: James Frank (Hascombe and Valiant Stud)

David Nicholson newcomer award: Kevin Skelton (Bryan Smart)

Runners-up: Charlotte Cotgrave (Mark Johnston); Bradley Harris (Andrew Balding)

Leadership award: Mat Nicholls (Kim Bailey)

Runners-up: Leanne Kershaw (Jedd O’Keeffe); James Savage (Sir Michael Stoute)

Rider/groom award: Hayley Ashcroft (Tom Dascombe)

Runners-up: Shoab Patel (Stuart Williams); Kate McCormack (Paul Nicholls)

Stud staff award: James Frank (Hascombe and Valiant Stud)

Runners-up: Paddy Meehan (The National Stud); Keith Warburton (Shade Oak Stud)

Dedication to racing award: Andy Stringer (John Gosden)

Runners-up: Seanie Mulcaire (Philip Hobbs); Phil Wright (Harry Dunlop)

Rory MacDonald award: Simone Sear (Racing Welfare)

Runners-up: Eleanor Boden (Scottish Racing), Rachel ‘Chicky’ Oaksey – (Injured Jockeys Fund)

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