Wendy Smith has been crowned the Thoroughbred Excellence Award winner in the Australian Stud and Stable Staff Awards 2020.

At a virtual ceremony, the yearling manager at Victorian stud Blue Gum Farm, was praised for her unlimited determination, thorough reliability and unsurpassed knowledge and skill.

Smith took the top award of the evening, together with the Horsemanship category of the SSSA, staged by Thoroughbred Breeders’ Australia and Racing Australia and supported worldwide by Godolphin.

She is one of seven winners of the awards, which recognise the vital, but often behind-the-scenes work in one of the country’s largest industries.

A veterinary nurse and all-round horsewoman, Smith has overseen the post-natal care of the farm’s foals for the past eight years. During that time Blue Gum has become one of Victoria’s most successful consignors of yearlings to Australian sales.

“I would never have thought I would be in line for anything like this,” Smith said. “I really believe I was born to work with horses. I am shocked and I’m so grateful to Blue Gum’s owners Phil and Patti Campbell for nominating me.

“I really believe I was born to work with horses. I am shocked and I’m so grateful to Blue Gum’s owners Phil and Patti Campbell for nominating me.” – Wendy Smith

“There are so many people who work in the background who never get recognition. These awards offer something to all of them.”

As winner of the Horsemanship category, Smith receives a cash prize of $10,000, a trophy with a further $3000 to share among workplace colleagues. She receives an additional $5000 as the Thoroughbred Excellence award winner.

The winners in all seven categories of the SSSA were announced in an online ceremony streamed around the world on Wednesday night, with six categories carrying a cash prize of $10,000 and a trophy, while the top Newcomer received $5000.

The Dedication to Breeding section, sponsored by Magic Millions, went to Chris Cooper who has been at Godolphin’s Woodlands Stud in the Hunter Valley for most of the past 25 years.

Dedicated servant

The Dedication to Racing winner Mick Hurry was nominated for the award, sponsored by the Australian Turf Club, by his sister Suzie and is an employee of the Victoria Racing Club.

In the Leadership category, the winner – Godolphin’s Simon Johnson – spoke for every entrant in the SSSA, saying “you do it because you love it.” The assistant stud manager at Woodlands Stud regards leadership as an obligation.

“We are obliged to give everyone who comes into the industry and who shows a willingness to learn the opportunity to advance themselves,” Johnson said.

Thoroughbred Care and Welfare is an area that is vital to the industry and one to which Godolphin is committed, as is the 2020 winner, Liz Andriske. With her husband Gary, Andriske has funded and built a comprehensive complex in western Victoria where she provides a temporary home for her horses until new owners are found.

Sarah Moran’s success in the Administration and Ancillary category, sponsored by the Melbourne Racing Club Foundation, came after a testing year in which she went above and beyond her role as personal assistant to Victorian trainer Robbie Griffiths after he was diagnosed with a brain aneurism.

Newcomer Award winner Kelly Colledge confronted similar circumstances soon after she joined Grafton trainer Brenden Mackay and she responded in similar style when Mackay was found to have a brain tumour and it was left to his brand-new employee to keep his business running.

Greg Nichols, Chairman of Racing Australia, and Tom Reilly, Chief Executive Officer of Thoroughbred Breeders Australia, said: “A record 168 nominations were received from the widest-ever range of training establishments, studs and other organisations that support and maintain an industry that is one of Australia’s largest.”

“The hard work and commitment of staff is the cornerstone of our industry. Without that, Australia would not be regarded as a global leader in thoroughbred racing and breeding.”

Vin Cox, Managing Director of Godolphin Australia said: “These Awards honour the behind-the-scenes stars of our industry and bring deserved recognition and reward to the people who make an extraordinary commitment to our horses and this sport.”

Article courtesy of TDN