Hosted at Killashee Hotel, Tuesday, October 29, there were five winners from Co Kildare announced at the annual Goldolhin Stud & Stable Staff Awards 2019.
Audrey O’Neill, an exercise rider and groom at John Oxx’s yard at the Curragh, was announced as the Irish Racing Excellence Award winner. Audrey, who also won the Horse Care Award and was among eight individual category winners, was selected by the judging committee for the highest accolade. Audrey has worked for John Oxx for the last 25 years.
Described as a vital team player, Audrey’s application wowed the judging committee for the sheer breadth of her day-to-day capabilities and the empathy she shows for the horses in her care and her young colleagues starting out in the industry. Regularly riding out four or five lots a day, Audrey’s all-round skills know no bounds and she is hugely popular with her colleagues.
Audrey commented: “It’s an honour because there’s some fantastic people who’ve been nominated and winning awards here tonight. I love horses and everything about them but riding them is my favourite part of it. I’ve been lucky to work with Sinndar and Sea The Stars to name but a few, it’s been brilliant working with such horses over the year. To get an award like this for doing something that you love doing is special.”
Wayne Middleton, Strength and Conditioning Coach with RACE, Kildare, won the Racing & Breeding Support Services Award. Wayne’s innovative and inspiring approach to strength and conditioning for racing trainees and apprentices, as well as established jockeys, has had a huge impact on hundreds of racing personnel. His health programmes have dramatically improved the level of support and his approach has added a scientific edge to the professional support system given to jockeys under the HRI’s Jockey Pathway Scheme.
Wayne said: “I’m delighted; this is more of a recognition of the Jockey Pathway programme with HRI, with the strength and conditioning element added to the physiotherapy, the dietician and the sports psychology. I’ve huge admiration for jockeys and love working with them. They’ve embraced what we’re trying to do from a sports science perspective and it’s an exciting time.”
Cheryl McClean, Exercise Rider and Groom with Willie McCreery’s successful yard on the Curragh, won the Newcomer Award. Cheryl came to the McCreery yard in 2016 after completing a two-year course in horse management at CAFRE in Enniskillen and in that time, has established herself as a vital cog in one of the country’s top stables.
She said: “I’ve loved working in racing from the first day I started, and I’ve loved every day since! When I finished college, Willie McCreery was the first trainer I looked for a job from; he gave me one and it’s worked out so well, many thanks to Willie and Amanda for nominating me.”
Robert Gallagher, Head Lad at Michael’s Halford’s yard in Doneany, Kildare, won the Dedication to Racing & Breeding Award. 'Robbie’ has been in racing all his life and in a career spanning over 50 years with most of his early career spent as Headman with Paddy ‘Darkie’ Prendergast during which he regularly had responsibility for travelling Group 1 horses abroad. Later, he worked for 13 years as Headman to Paddy’s son Kevin and helped young apprentices like Charlie Swan and Kieren Fallon through their early years as jockeys. For the past 19 years, Robbie has been an integral part of Michael Halford’s training operation and, as well as having that expert eye for horses developed in 58 years in racing, he continues to be a role model for his fellow staff members.
Robert said: “I’m supposed to be semi-retired but it hasn’t worked out that way! I’ve been so lucky to travel all over the world with horses. I love working with the young kids when they come in here first and then watching them move on and make careers for themselves. Thanks to Michael for his support and for nominating me.”
Dorothy Fleming, racing secretary at Ken Condon’s yard on the Curragh, won the Administration Award. A career spent in racing and spanning spells working for Paddy Woods, Michael Grassick and Forenaughts Stud, for the past eight years Dorothy Fleming has been racing secretary at Ken Condon Racing and has become an indispensable part of the team. She is described by her employer as being much more than the job description – indeed she is at the heart of all the business decisions in the yard and runs the office single-handedly.
Dorothy said: “I’m really delighted and would like to thank Ken and Pauline Condon for nominating me - I’m shocked, can’t believe it! This award really is on behalf of all of the great people that work with me every day.” A total of ten awards, worth over €80,000 were presented by well-known writer and comedian, Jarlath Regan. David Jennings, Deputy Editor of the Racing Post in Ireland, acted as MC for the occasion.
Bernard Caldwell, Chairman of the Irish Stablestaff Association, said: "It was an excellent night and it was great to see so many well-deserving members of our industry walk away with such recognition. The standard of the awards scheme was at a new level this year; I would like to thank all of those who nominated stud and stable staff, congratulate the finalists and thank Godolphin for their sponsorship and HRI for organising the night.”
Joe Osborne, MD, Godolphin Ireland, commented: “There was a huge spectrum of people participating in the awards this year and that could be seen from the enthusiasm and brilliance of the Newcomers Award, to the finalists in the Dedication to Racing & Breeding Award where the three finalists have 150 years of work in the industry between them.”
The winners of the Administration, Horse Care, In The Saddle, Travelling Head Person, Leads by Example, and Dedication to Racing and Breeding awards received a trophy and €5,000 with an additional €3,000 for employees from the winner’s yard, stud or company. The two runners-up in these categories each received €1,000.
Audrey O’Neill, winner of the Irish Racing Excellence Award, received an additional €5,000 and €5,000 for employees in John Oxx’s where she is a Groom. Gowran Park, winner of the Racecourse Award, received a specially-commissioned trophy and €2,500 to be spent on upgrades of facilities which will benefit stable employees. Wayne Middleton, winner of the Racing and Breeding Support Services Award received a specially commissioned trophy and €5,000 with two runners-up each receiving €1,000. Cheryl McClean, winner of the Newcomer Award received a trophy and €2,500, plus a five-day educational tour to Dubai with flights and accommodation included.
The Racecourse Award was chosen by the Irish Stable Staff Association based on a quality programme survey with the purpose of setting quality standards for stable staff at all racecourses in Ireland.