Rebecca Edmonds, head girl to Bryan Smart, was crowned Employee of the Year at the 2021 Godolphin Stud and Stable Staff Awards on Monday evening, staged this year as an interactive virtual event on Racing TV and hosted by Ed Chamberlin.

With £128,500 in prize money, the awards recognise and celebrate the remarkable dedication, hard work and passion of the people who provide the best possible care to our horses and people.

Edmunds receives £10,000 for winning the award while a further £10,000 will be shared among her colleagues at Bryan Smart’s yard.

Edmonds joined the yard in 2005 and is married to Smart’s assistant trainer Kevin. Nick Luck, who chaired the judging panel, paid tribute to the obvious passion that she holds for her job. He said: “There surely cannot be many prizes as difficult to judge as the Godolphin Stud and Stable Staff Awards. Everybody nominated is so deserving of the recognition winning brings and it was a pleasure to get to know the individuals put forward by their colleagues for consideration this year.

“Beck is a most deserving winner of the Employee of the Year Award and all of her colleagues at Bryan Smart Racing should rightly feel very proud this evening.

“We know that the continuation of racing over the past few months has had a positive impact on the mental health of the sport’s fans during a most difficult year, so it is right that we acknowledge the sacrifices made by racing staff to make this possible. These dedicated and talented people have worked hard throughout to provide world-class care to our horses, ensuring they are fit and ready to perform at the highest level for our entertainment.

“My congratulations go to all of our winners this evening, as well as those nominated. I also would also like to extend the thanks of the judging panel to racing staff for their incredible work in the last 12 months.”

Rebecca Edmonds: crowned Employee of the Year

Edmonds, who was described as the glue that holds the Smart team together, also lifted the Leadership award.

“Thank you to everyone, especially to team Smart, we’re little but we’re mighty,” she said. “I’m a firm believer in that you have to get to know people and I make it my job to get to know the staff. It makes communication so much easier.

“I’m so proud of the yard, so pleased for them, we’ve had such a rough year – so has everyone – but to win for them is great.

She added: “I love 5f sprints and the Nunthorpe Stakes was always the one I wanted us to win. And when Alpha Delphini won in 2018, it was the best day ever. We also had his half-brother Tangerine Trees in the yard before him, so to have known the family for so long and then for Alpha to go and win it was amazing.”

The other finalists for Employee of the Year included Joline Saunders, who contributed to an outstanding evening for the Richard Phillips team when taking the Dedication Award. 

Phillips himself later won the Rory MacDonald Community Award.

Saunders has worked for Phillips for the past 19 years. From handling all of the administration to looking after the staff, helping owners and organising much of the charitable work the yard has become known for, she is central to keeping Richard Phillips Racing and all who work there going on a day-to-day basis.

“I feel so honoured,” she said. “I didn’t feel that I had any chance of winning, so I’m amazed and a big thanks to everyone. It’s a small yard, we all work together and they’re a great team. I’m very lucky to work there.”

Phillips was also quick to pay tribute to his employee. He said: “I’ve got a great team around me but the best day of my life was employing Jo Saunders. Jo is a remarkable person and without her, as a lot of people have witnessed, nothing would happen.”

He added: “This is a very special double. I’m really honoured. It all stems from the fact that people have been so good to me and that I always think I should be good to them back. I’ve been so lucky in my life that I’ve had many mentors. I really do love this game, it is a great community and there are so many people who do good things for others.”

The Rider/Groom Award went to Joanna Lacisz, who joined Sir Michael Stoute’s yard four years ago. “I always wanted to work in Newmarket because I think it’s the best place to be if you like racing and racehorses,” she said. “I’m very lucky person – even if you have a tough day, you’re not tired of your job, you still want come in and do what you love.”

Elody Swann, who holds the position of barn manager at Newsells Park Stud, was the deserving winner of the Stud Staff Award. Swann has worked for Newsells Park for the past 17 years and is a familiar face within the stud’s sales consignments

Explaining how she came to work in bloodstock, she said: “I used to work with show jumpers in France but my big passion was the breeding industry so I came to England – I could not speak a word of English. 

“I’m very lucky to work for Newsells, they gave me a good chance and now I’ve been here for 17 years. I love looking after the foals, then seeing them as yearlings and seeing them run. It makes me very proud.”

The David Nicholson Newcomer Award went to Alice Price, who has worked for Ben Pauling for the past two and a half years.

Julie Harrington, Chief Executive of the BHA, added: “I have always been struck by the dedication, professionalism and passion shown by our remarkable stud and stable staff. While it is always true that those of us who love our sport and our horses owe a debt of gratitude to them, it feels even more necessary this year to say the most heartfelt ‘thank you’.

“Racing was privileged to be one of the very first sports to resume last summer and our racing and stable staff played a vital role in making this happen, adapting brilliantly to significant changes in working practices, while continuing to provide a high level care to the horses entrusted to them. I am proud to say that I work in the same industry as them and would like to say a massive thank you not only to all those nominated tonight but everybody working in yards and studs up and down the country. My heartfelt congratulations go to Beck and all of this evening’s winners.”