Stable worker at Aldbourne stud is finallist for the Godolphin Newcomer award
People like Josephine Saunders, who works at the Hillwood Stud in Aldbourne, are the backbone of the racing and bloodstock industries - the six thousand or so women and men who look after the horses at training yards and stud farms throughout the British Isles.
For the record: the Newcomwer award went to Adrian Stewart (29) who has been a rider & groom at David Loughnane's yard for eight months. And the Employee of the Year award went to Jessica McLernon, who is 25 and assistant trainer to Richard Fahey.
The Godolphin Stud and Stable Staff awards reward the dedication and skills of the best of them and give all those staff some richly-deserved time in the limelight.
Organised by the British Horseracing Authority, the 2018 awards will be made at a ceremony in London on February 19. There were 256 nominations for the six categories - and the judges have whittled those down to three finalists for each category.
Josephine Saunders is one of the three finalists for the David Nicholson Newcomer Award for those who have begun their careers in the racing industry in the last three years. She started at the Aldbourne stud in January 2016 and her nomination says her "enthusiasm for the job and love for the horses in her care was evident from her first day at Hillwood".
"In a short space of time Jo has developed into a key member of our team and shows what a newcomer to the industry can achieve with the right passion, desire, motivation and willingness to learn and improve."
Josephine is not only very involved with Hillwood's bloodstock breeding and sales (last year their sales were worth £2.6 million), but she also looks after a lot of high profile jump racehorses.
These include some of Champion jumps trainer Nicky Henderson whose horses spend rest periods at Hillwood - giving Josephine the enviable task of looking after the likes of Might Bite and Buveur D’Air - even perhaps this summer, the amazing Altior.
Now in their fourteenth year, the Godolphin awards - with a prize pot of £120,000 - aims to emphasise that working for racing stables and studs can be a structured career - indeed, a most rewarding career, working with magnificent animals and caring for them while they compete in elite sport.
The other categories in the Godolphin awards are: Leadership Award, Dedication to Racing Award, Rider/Groom Award, Stud Staff Award, Community Award and, chosen from the winners of all six categories, the Employee of the Year who receives £15,000 with another £15,000 going to their yard or stud.
If Josephine wins the Newcomer category she will get a cheque for £2,000 with another £2,000 going to Hillwood Stud. In addition this category has an extra prize: return flights to Dubai for a five-day, accommodation paid educational tour of the racing facilities.
The Newcomer award is named after jumps jockey and trainer and racing legend David Nicholson who died in 2006 aged 67.
The awards are judged by a panel chaired by journalist and ITV Racing pundit Brough Scott. It includes ITV Racing's Alice Plunkett , senior members of the industry, and David Nicholson's widow, Dinah.