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15 February 2023

Three women recognised for outstanding work in the racing community

There is £128,500 of prize money on offer for The Thoroughbred Industry and Employee Awards, sponsored by Godolphin that recognise and celebrate those people working at the grassroots of the industry dedicating their lives to the care of racehorses. The Community Award showcases those who are selfless, charitable and passionate and that have gone above and beyond to volunteer or benefit those within the industry and their wider communities, and who champion the values of the sport.

An outstanding shortlist

This year sees three remarkable women nominated for the Community Award, made in recognition of the wonderful work Rory MacDonald achieved at The British Racing School. Gay Kelleway, Jo Foster and Margo Walsh are the three finalists recognised for their contributions to the community.

Almost a year ago, when most racehorse trainers would be starting to get excited about the impending Flat turf season, Gay Kelleway began a different type of campaign. This was when Russia invaded the Ukraine, an event that prompted Gay to begin ‘Racing to Help Ukraine’.

The racing industry united behind Kelleway’s initiative to provide humanitarian aid for animals trapped in the deadly conflict zone and surrounding areas. The trainer is undertaking many of these trips herself alongside a team of volunteers. Not only is she organising donations of medical aid, food supplies and other necessary items from the UK,  but she is also running a JustGiving campaign to purchase the vital supplies required for the welfare of animals, particularly those who are stuck in a country ravaged by war.

The aid does not stop at horses and she is ensuring that as many as possible of the country’s dogs and cats are also receiving necessary items for survival. She began by coordinating and undertaking trips to the Polish-Ukraine border, however in November

Kelleway said: “I’m not afraid of dying. You only die once and if I did die then at least it would be doing something meaningful rather than just moaning about prize-money.

“You can get hit by a missile strike and blown up anywhere in Ukraine at the moment. That’s just the way it is over there and there is the nuclear threat to worry about, but we’re just getting on with it.”

The second nominee is another trainer, Jo Foster, who has trained over 140 winners from her base near Ilkley Moor, West Yorkshire. Her nomination focuses on her use of  horses for something a little bit different.

Jo has recently become well-known for her community visits with the six-time winner Sigurd and Yogi the Shetland Pony. Jo began to tour Sigurd and Yogi to care homes and schools after she recovered from a fall that left her with a broken spine. During her rehabilitation period she struggled with mental health and isolation and recognised that horses can help with both.

With her two equine ‘therapists’ she visits local care homes, residential homes and grammar schools. Yogi the Shetland is able to go into the care home to visit Dementia patients, while  Sigurd is helping a generation of children engage with horses and the racing industry.

Of the visits Jo said: “Sigurd was very gentle. The more vulnerable the person, the gentler he tends to be. We find that with a lot of the horses. They are so sensitive they can read when there are people around them that maybe can’t move so fast but are well meaning.

“A lot have dementia, they get stimulated by touching the horse and it sparks memories,” she added. “There was one man who had not been outside since he arrived at the home five or six years ago – until he came out to see Sigurd. It can be a tough day but it’s very moving.”

In December she was awarded the Animal Loneliness Award from Good Morning Britain’s 1 Million Minutes Award Initiative. These awards surprise deserving loneliness heroes up and down the country.

The third and final nominee is Margo Walsh, Operations and Community Project Manager for The Jockey Club. Margo has been responsible for a number of community initiatives in Newmarket, most recently reviving the Newmarket Community Orchard on The Yellow Brick Road, after it had become choked by brambles. Teams from Newmarket Racecourses, Jockey Club Estates, The National Stud and Racing Welfare all worked together to clear the area for it to realise its potential as not only a beautiful green space for the community but also a haven for biodiversity.

Led by expert teams from The Jockey Club estates, the foundations have been laid for a sustainable habitat for a variety of bugs and wildlife. They have introduced bug hotels and bird boxes and hope that the area will also serve an educational purpose for the children of local schools.

Margo said: “The Yellow Brick Road is such a special and valuable asset to the town that just needs some love and attention to realise its full potential.

“The team at The Jockey Club are all local people and passionate about making the project a success and seeing the area thrive, as well as having particular expertise in this sort of work through our day-to-day roles.

“This was just one of many events we hope to support on the wider Yellow Brick Road project, and we look forward to seeing the area blossom into something beautiful this Spring.”

The winner will receive £5,000 and be announced at the awards ceremony at York on Monday, 20th February, with £5,000 match funded to the charity of their choice. The two runners up will each receive £2,000 and a further £2,000 awarded to their chosen charities.

For more information on the awards, past winners and eligibility criteria please click here

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