Outstanding leadership and over 60 years of service honoured at prestigious racing awards

Assistant trainer Catriona Bissett was awarded the 2019 ‘Employee of the Year’ at the glittering Godolphin Stud and Stable Staff Awards last night (18 February), which honoured the hard-work staff in racing. “Catch”, who was congratulated for her outstanding leadership skills, fought off tough competition from fellow category victors, including John Bottomley, who has been working in the industry for over 60 years.

Catch was presented with a cheque for £15,000 by 20-time champion jockey AP McCoy, while a further £15,000 will be shared among the staff at her boss Nick Alexander’s Fife yard.

The judging panel, which included Brough Scott, Alice Plunkett and Mick Fitzgerald, were impressed with Catch’s leadership, in particular when something goes wrong. They added that the happy and motivated team of staff are testament to her hard work and commitment to developing them.

“We work for a fantastic boss, we all know where we are going and we pull together in the same direction. I think that is really important and I’m really happy to have won this [trophy] for all of them,” said Catch (pictured, below).

Credit: Dan Abraham/focusonracing.com

Brough Scott added: “The panel’s job was tougher than it has ever been this year with some extraordinary displays of stories of dedication, commitment and hard work amongst this year’s finalists.

“However, we had to reach a final decision and Catch is a hugely deserving winner for all the work she has done in mentoring other members of the team at Kinneston.”

John Bottomley, 75, won the ‘Dedication to racing’ award following his 60-plus years working within racing. The judges decided his patience, kindness and good humour made him an irreplaceable part of the team at Ollie Pears Racing.

“I don’t want to retire,” said John. “It’s hard to explain, but I still get the buzz when I go racing — if you don’t have that buzz anymore, you don’t want to be in the job. I love every minute of it.”

Andrea O’Keeffe, the wife of trainer Jedd O’Keeffe, took home the Rory MacDonald community award, for her massive contribution to the development of racing programmes, while also supporting her husband’s training operation in North Yorkshire — particularly when Jedd was receiving treatment for cancer in 2011.

“For Catch to be named ‘Employee of the Year’ when our sport employs 6,000 people, who work so hard to provide first-class care to our horses, is a fantastic achievement,” said Nick Rust, chief executive of the British Horseracing Authority.

“We are grateful to all of the staff, who work day in, day out to ensure that the horses are provided with a quality of life that is virtually unsurpassed by any other domesticated animal.”

The full list of winners:

Employee of the Year: Catriona Bissett (Nick Alexander)

David Nicholson Newcomer Award: Sophy Scott (Mark Johnson)

Leadership Award: Catriona Bissett

Rider/Groom Award: Stewart Gossnell (Richard Hughes)

Stud Staff Award: Andrew Snell (Cheveley Park Stud)

Dedication to Racing Award: John Bottomley (Ollie Pears)

Rory Macdonald Community Award: Andrea O’Keeffe (Jedd O’Keeffe)

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