“These Awards are working. When Jo won, I knew the judges were getting it right, the right people are getting rewarded”– Richard Phillips, Godolphin Stud and Stable Staff Community Award winner
It might require some persistent thumbing through the form book to find the last time Richard Phillips landed a double, but the Master of Adlestrop was in celebratory mood the morning after three of the ‘family’ were honoured at this year’s Godolphin Stud and Stable Staff Awards, with the trainer and long-serving Jo Saunders winning their respective categories.
Typically, the trainer was quick to praise the other leg of what would have been some treble, Faisal, who made the podium in the Rider/Groom category. “He was just chuffed to be in the final three and against some incredibly stiff competition, he couldn’t have done any more,” said Phillips, who later was announced as winner of the Rory Macdonald Community Award.
“A couple of owners were kind enough to drop off some champagne the morning after; problem is I’ll have 120 of them looking for a party once Boris says it’s alright!” he added.
If these established racing awards epitomize one quality it is perseverance, and what the trainer describes as ‘one big angry family’ had to wait 15 years for their own Jo Saunders to better her runner-up spot in the then Merit Award, with Monday night’s win in the Dedication category. Job done and worth the wait.
“To be honest, we’re a bit embarrassed by these Awards,” explained Phillips. “Jo didn’t want to be put forward and my view is that you should go about your work quietly. But these Awards are working; the judges are getting it right as the right people are winning and a big effort goes into applying each year.”
Back to the form book, and the Gloucestershire-based trainer is very proud of his former Pupil Assistant turned Assistant Trainer, Catch Bissett, who lit up the 2019 Stud and Stable Staff Awards when carrying off the top prize as Employee of the Year.
On reflecting on the eponymous former Chief Executive of the British Racing School, who is recognised through the Community Award, Phillips said: “Rory was a great man; a mentor. He gave his students that feeling of security and family, and I guess we wore the same badge and understood the approach to supporting young people. ‘What would Rory do?’ is often a good starting point when there’s a problem to sort.”
Unifying the sport and emphasising the good over the bad are watchwords for the trainer, who can count 29 years in the game. “I left school in my tracksuit and just ran into racing, knocking on trainers’ doors to get into the industry. They couldn’t have been more welcoming,” recalled Phillips. “The moment as a young boy that I saw Lester Piggott in action, my mind was made up about what I wanted to do.”
It is perhaps no surprise that it was Richard Phillips who sparked the genesis of a new idea to elevate the racehorse in people’s minds. “Let’s show them how these horses are loved and cared for across the country,” he said. Letting the public in to see welfare in action and to speak to the likes of Faisal and Jo, is what is driving a concept that could be a significant antidote to the enforced separation of racing from its communities. Just don’t expect there to be much champagne left at Adlestrop by the time the gates open.