Godolphin Stud and Stable Staff Awards

8 October 2021 Written by Michael Lynch

Knowledge, experience and an unwavering passion for the horse. These are just some of the attributes that nominees, finalists and winners in the Godolphin Stud & Stable Awards possess.

Ever since their inception in 2015 – when the top prize was taken out by then-Gai Waterhouse employee but now successful Sydney trainer Mark Newnham – the Godolphin Stud and Stable Awards have been a coveted title for those who work in the industry but rarely get a chance to step into the limelight.

The awards night has become a who’s who of the bloodstock and equine world, with those nominated for the several categories all drawing large rounds of applause from those in attendance.

With categories covering Administration and Ancillary Services, Dedication to Breeding, Horsemanship, Leadership, Dedication to Racing, Thoroughbred Care and Welfare and a special section to reward the best Newcomer, all facets of the industry are covered.

Anyone in the industry can nominate anyone at all: in practice, this usually means a colleague or employer recommending an employee, but friends who work in rival camps can put each other forward and individuals can even nominate themselves.

And the prizes for being judged the “best in class” in any given year are definitely not to be sniffed at. Each of the winners, except for the Newcomer, win $10,000 and a trophy, with each runner-up receiving $3000. The Newcomer Award carries a $5000 prize plus an educational experience in Dubai (COVID restrictions permitting).

There is also an extra-special cash prize of a further $5000 for the category winner who goes on to be judged the winner of the Thoroughbred Excellence award.

There is a long list of deserving previous winners of these awards, such as Mick Hurry of the Victoria Racing Club (VRC), Steve Adams from the Anthony Freedman stable and legendary trackwork rider Joe Agresta, who spent many years with the Cups King Bart Cummings. Mark Newnham, the inaugural Excellence winner, is now a Group 1 winning trainer in his own right.

This year was no exception, with the category winners highlighting the breadth and depth of an industry that is united by the love for the horse:

Administration and Ancillary


Cassandra Simmonds

Magic Millions QLD

Dedication to Breeding


Steve Brien

Twin Hills Stud NSW



Mandy Radecker

Michael Lakey Racing QLD



David Hanratty

Yarradale Stud WA

Dedication to Racing


Gary Fennessy

Lindsay Park Racing VIC

Thoroughbred Care and Welfare


Jade Willis

JW Equestrian VIC



Jack Cripps

McEvoy Mitchell VIC

Thoroughbred Excellence Award

Gary Fennessy

Lindsay Park Racing VIC

Gary Fennessy, the Lindsay Park veteran (he has been with the Hayes family for over 50 years) took out the main Thoroughbred Excellence Award as well as the Dedication to Racing award. He explained how he got into racing, and, approaching his 70th birthday, why he has stayed in the game all his life.

“I had an uncle who had a horse. When I was about 14 or 15, I went with him to CS Hayes’s stable. They gave me a job and I have stayed ever since." - Gary Fennessy

“My favourite horse is Better Loosen Up. I took him to Japan and he won the Japan Cup. I have been associated with so many other really good horses, Dulcify, At Talaq, So Called, Miss Finland.

“Getting two-year-olds every year and getting good horses, just inspires you to stay involved.

“Lindsay Park has been an amazing place for me, it constantly allows you to improve yourself. The basics of horsemanship have not changed, but you have got to be a bit smarter these days.”

Perhaps the most unusual – and certainly the tallest – winner this year was Jack Cripps, who scooped up the award in the Newcomer category.

Jack is a cousin of AFL players, Carlton midfielder Patrick Cripps and West Coast's Jamie Cripps. He played for East Fremantle as a youngster in the WAFL and had hopes of an AFL career himself. But a couple of years ago he was earning a living selling trucks in his native WA.

His passion however was thoroughbred racing, and he was determined to find a role within the sport – not easy for a man who stands at 1.97cm tall.

He went on the Thoroughbred Industry Careers (TIC) Explorer Cadetship Program, completed a 12-week boot camp at Western Sydney University, a placement period at Godolphin’s Northwood Park stud in Victoria and ended with a stint at the Flemington stables of the McEvoy Mitchell Racing team.

So impressed was Tony McEvoy that he gave him a job as a full-time stablehand, which Cripps parlayed into a post in sales and syndication.

“It’s an honour to be able to win this,” Cripps said of his award. “My stable placement was with Tony McEvoy ... he thought he was getting a work rider, and he got a bit of a wake-up call when he saw me and my height.

“I had to start at the bottom as a stable hand. I spent seven months in that role before creating my current job. I had to put a business plan to Tony and to Wayne Mitchell. I am grateful to Tony for throwing me a bone and having faith and belief in me.

“Horse racing is life to me. I could not think of another industry I would want to work in, I don’t think I could." - Jack Cripps

“In my role now, you have to find new owners and people to come into the industry. The people who are the small shareholders now could become the big players in ten years’ time. If you give them good service now, they will hopefully stay with you.”

All these winners, and the categories they succeed in, illustrate just how broad and deep the talent pool is in an industry that employs tens of thousands around the country.

The stories behind the nominees, and almost everyone in the industry, show their unwavering commitment to the biggest stars of all – the horses they tend.

Trainers, owners, breeders, stud masters and all involved with thoroughbreds know that it is the unsung heroes, those who dedicate their lives to the game without being in the spotlight, are the ones without whom it could not function.

Vin Cox, head of Godolphin's Australian operation and VRC Board Member, agrees.

“The key objectives [of the awards] are to recognise the back-room people, those who are not front and centre in the limelight but are doing the hard yards in the dark of night and the cold of winter to ensure that the horses are well looked after and can compete at as high a level as possible on the racecourses of the world. So many of these people don’t get as much recognition as they perhaps could,” explained Cox.

“Anyone can nominate anyone. There is an independent panel ... they get interviewed and go through a strong process. It’s a robust system that is quite independent, certainly of Godolphin. We want it to be at arm's length for us. We do nominate quite a lot of people, obviously, but want it to be run separately from us.”