The coveted title of Employee of the Year at the 11th annual Godolphin Stud and Stable Staff Awards has gone to Jessica Fortt, Stud Manager for Dunraven Stud in Wales.
At a ceremony at London’s Jumeirah Carlton Tower Hotel hosted by Clare Balding and Ryan Moore, Fortt won the Stud Staff category before going on the claim the night’s major prize and the perpetual Godolphin Trophy. Her winnings totaled £40,000, of which £20,000 will be shared amongst her colleagues at Dunraven Stud.
On accepting her award, Fortt said: “I was in shock with the first award and then just overwhelmed to be the overall winner.
“I’d always wanted to work with horses and when I left school at 16 I was going to go to agricultural college. But I saw an advert from the British Racing School in Newmarket, I applied for it, went on a course, absolutely fell in love with it and that was it. I’ve worked in racing ever since.
“I met David [Brace, owner of Dunraven Stud] through a friend. I went to manage his point-to-point yard, but he had some broodmares and I loved that side of it. I start at 6am and finish at 5pm but then I watch for the mares foaling as well. It doesn’t suit my husband, because I’m up all night watching the mares on my iPad, so I sleep in the lounge on my blow-up bed!”
Fortt is engaged in all manner of stud duties, including working with the Dunraven stallion Dr Massini, sire of Rocky Creek and Sound Investment, but she has a particular fondness for foaling mares.
She added: “This is my favourite time of year. I’ve been doing it for a long time but I never get bored of seeing the first time that a foal comes out and takes its first breath. It’s a fantastic sight. I felt privileged just to be a finalist as Dunraven Stud was small to come up against some of the biggest studs in the country.”
At the awards ceremony, a specially invited audience from across the racing industry heard praise for all 16 finalists.
Chairman of the judging panel Brough Scott commented: “This year’s awards have yet again produced a quite outstanding set of finalists and excellent winners. Despite the remarkable credentials of the winners, Jessica was a clear-cut choice for Employee of the Year in the eyes of the Judging Panel.
“Despite not being the typical stud staff breed, at less than five feet tall she shows empathy with each stallion and a natural way of handling them that means her lack of physicality is not an issue. She has been, and still is, involved in all parts of the game, as well as stud life and is also a magnificently refreshing character.”
The full list of winners and runners up are as follows:
Winner: Simon Archer, Groom – Sir Mark Prescott
Runners-up: Steve Nicholson, Full Time Work Rider – Ed Dunlop
Martyn Peake, Rider/Groom – Lady Cecil
STUD STAFF AWARD:
Winner: Jessica Fortt, Stud Manager – Dunraven Stud
Runners-up: Dale Clements, Stud Groom – Cheveley Park
Ron Lott, Stallion Man – Shadwell Stud
Winner: Johnson White, Assistant Trainer – Philip Hobbs
Runners-up: Joanne Fowles, Head Lass – Roger Varian
Kevin Mooney, Assistant Trainer – Charlie Hills
DEDICATION TO RACING AWARD:
Winner: Lesley White, Travelling Head Lass – Mick Channon
Runners-up: Clifford Marsden, Head Man – Luca Cumani
Robynne Watton, Senior Travelling Manager – Mark Johnston
DAVID NICHOLSON NEWCOMER AWARD:
Winner: Tegan Clark, Head Lad – Olly Stevens
Runners-up: Charlotte Clayton, Work Rider/Groom – Rae Guest
Reggie Eggleton, Yard Man/Feed Manager – Seamus Mullins
ADMINISTRATION STAFF AWARD:
Winner: Peter Shoemark, Racing Office Manager – John Gosden