Stud and stable staff who work tirelessly behind the scenes in racing were honoured in the Godolphin Stud and Stable Staff Awards, on Monday 1 March.
The awards, now in their sixth year, attracted 168 nominations, which were judged by a panel of six including British Horseracing Authority (BHA) director Morag Gray and former jockey John Reid.
Stuart Messenger, head lad with flat trainer Sir Michael Stoute, was named as employee of the year and awarded the Godolphin Trophy and a cheque for £25,000.
Stuart, described by Sir Michael as ‘irreplaceable’, started working for the trainer when he was still at school, and has worked in the racing industry for more than 32 years.
“I was delighted to have been nominated in the first place, and having seen the calibre of other nominees, never once thought that I could be in with a chance of winning employee of the year,” said Stuart.
Organised by the BHA and the Racing Post, the awards present £120,000 prize money — more than any similar awards in global racing.
Divided into six categories, each individual category winner, and their respective stud or stables, was presented with £5,000 each.
The two runners up in each category, and their workplace, also collected £2,000 each.
“These awards continue to grow in prestige year on year, and are a highly important event in the racing calendar,” said Nic Coward, BHA chief executive.
“They provide us with a moment to celebrate all the hard working, dedicated and talented people who play a fundamental role in making the sport all that it is today.”
The awards in full
David Nicholson Newcomer Award
Winner: James Gray, second head lad at Whitsbury Farm & Stud
Runners Up: Harry Fry, pupil assistant trainer with Paul Nicholls and Sam Davis, Stable Lad with Rae Guest
High Acheiver Award
Winner: Stuart Messenger, head lad with Sir Michael Stoute
Runners Up: Catherine Morse, stud groom at Overbury Stud and Timothy Potts, head lad with Luca Cumani
Stud Staff Award
Winner: Roy Gedge, stud groom/manager at Hascombe & Valient Stud
Runners Up: David Cartledge, senior stallion man at The Royal Studs and Hazel Woods, yearling foreman at Kirtlington Stud
Winner: Elizabeth George, head girl with Ed McMahon
Runners Up: Shane Featherstonhaugh, rider/groom with Henry Cecil and Brian Groves, rider/groom with Sir Michael Stoute
Nass Special Merit Award
Winner: Ken Bedford, stable lad for John Dunlop
Runner Up: Jeremiah Michael Walsh, employed by Paul Webber
Dedication To Racing Award
Winner: Jimmy Scott, travelling head lad with Sir Michael Stoute
Runners Up: Clifford Baker, head lad with Paul Nicholls and Larry Wargen, head yard/feed man with Luca Cumani