Reigning Godolphin Stud and Stable Staff Awards Employee of the Year, Catch Bissett shares her journey into racing and the impact of her win
Happy people produce happy horses, and vice versa
I’m writing this on my day off after a long day at Doncaster and it’s a great opportunity to reflect on the last year.
My day yesterday started at 5:30am and didn’t finish until 11pm and included a 11-hour round trip to Doncaster in the horse box. Working in a National Hunt yard, days like this aren’t uncommon and in the depths of winter we go to work in the dark and return home in the darkness.
The work can be hard, the weather can be rough and occasionally the days can be very long. So, what makes it all worthwhile? Well, yesterday it was the small part I played in a big step forward for a young four-year-old gelding’s career. It wasn’t just watching him win the first race of his career but it was the obvious joy and enthusiasm he showed as he went about his job.
I am a firm believer that happy people produce happy horses, but I also think that goes both ways!
A team game
I am Assistant Trainer to Nick Alexander and I play a small part in a team that works with 43 horses every day. Each horse has a little something to accomplish of their own. Racing is a team game and one of the best things about working in this industry is the sense of the community in which you are involved. My role is to work alongside Nick, planning and implementing the training of each horse but also very much managing and developing the staff that Nick employs. I enjoy working every day with a strong group of like minded and ambitious people. However, the sense of community goes beyond just the team at home.
There is genuine warmth between those who work in racing, which is unusual between people who are actually competing against each other each day at the races! To me, this was no more apparent than when I won the Goldolphin Stud and Stable Staff Employee of the Year award in February of last year. I continue to be surprised and very honoured by this and humbled by the lovely reception I received from my racing peers.
An industry united by a love of the racehorse
On the Awards night it struck me that I was surrounded by people who were each doing incredible things for the industry in their own way. Across the categories there were nominees who were united by a love of the racehorse and of the sport of horseracing. The industry employees 6,000 people and there are so many out there who deserve the recognition for their work. The Awards do such an amazing job to recognise and reward these people with the generous sponsorship from Godolphin, and by the doors it opens for nominees and category winners.
If you want to work with horses, I believe that the racing industry is the most rewarding place in which you can do so. Horseracing is incredibly well regulated in terms of both the horses and the workforce that it employs. It offers you the opportunity to travel across the country and sometimes the world. The sport itself can be thrilling and the incredible high of winning races is always what you’re chasing. However, there is no greater feeling than watching each horse you work with achieve small steps towards their individual goals and working within the spirit of the racing community.
Ambitious but with a yearning for home
I don’t come from a particularly equestrian background. I started by riding ponies at a riding school and was introduced to racing by my father. I rode out for Lucinda Russell by chance, as my dad went to look at a horse to buy. I continued to do this as much as I could throughout school and university, however I always really aspired to be a racehorse trainer! After completing my MA Honours and Post Graduate degrees, I began to pursue my career in racing by being granted a position in the BHA Graduate Scheme. This scheme placed me with the trainer Richard Phillips. Once I completed my placement, Richard employed me as Pupil Assistant before quickly promoting me to Assistant Trainer. A true passion for Scottish Racing would see me return to Scotland four years later when the opportunity arose to become Nick’s Assistant.
My advice to anyone considering a career in racing would be to absorb the knowledge that is offered by your peers, as in the world of horses everyone’s opinion can be valuable. If you work hard, love horses and are able to enjoy every high the sport offers, you will find yourself surrounded by people willing to give you a “leg up”.
Find out more about the awards and this year’s finalists here: https://www.studandstablestaffawards.co.uk/
The shortlisted nominees and their employers listed by category are as follows:
David Nicholson Newcomer Award
Charlotte Cotgrave – Mark Johnston
Bradley Harris – Andrew Balding
Kevin Skelton – Bryan Smart
Leanne Kershaw – Jedd O’Keeffe
Mat Nicholls – Kim Bailey
James Savage – Michael Stoute
Hayley Ashcroft – Tom Dascombe
Shoab Patel – Stuart Williams
Kate McCormack – Paul Nicholls
James Frank – Hascombe and Valiant
Patrick Meehan – The National Stud
Keith Warburton – Shade Oak
Seanie Mulcaire – Philp Hobbs
Andrew Stringer – John Gosden
Philip Wright – Harry Dunlop
Rory MacDonald Community Award
Eleanor Boden – Scottish Racing
Rachel (Chicky) Oaksey – Injured Jockeys Fund
Simone Sear – Racing Welfare