Audrey O’Neill scoops top prize at 2019 Stud and Stable Staff Awards


Audrey O’Neill, an Exercise Rider and Groom at John Oxx’s yard at the Curragh, was announced as the Irish Racing Excellence Award winner at the 2019 Godolphin Stud and Stable Staff Awards which were held in Killashee Hotel, County Kildare on Tuesday, October 29.

Audrey, who also won the Horse Care Award and was among eight individual category winners, was selected by the judging committee for the highest accolade.

Audrey has worked for John Oxx for the last 25 years. Described as a vital team player, Audrey’s application wowed the judging committee for the sheer breadth of her day-to-day capabilities and the empathy she shows for the horses in her care and her young colleagues starting out in the industry. Regularly riding out four or five lots a day, Audrey’s all-round skills know no bounds and she is hugely popular with her colleagues.

Wayne Middleton, Strength and Conditioning Coach with RACE, Kildare, won the Racing & Breeding Support Services Award.

Wayne’s innovative and inspiring approach to strength and conditioning for racing trainees and apprentices, as well as established jockeys, has had a huge impact on hundreds of racing personnel. His health programmes have dramatically improved the level of support and his approach has added a scientific edge to the professional support system given to jockeys under the HRI’s Jockey Pathway Scheme.

Cheryl McClean, Exercise Rider and Groom with Willie McCreery’s successful yard on the Curragh, won the Newcomer & Horse Care Award.

Cheryl came to the McCreery yard in 2016 after completing a two-year course in horse management at CAFRE in Enniskillen and in that short space of time has established herself as a vital cog in one of the country’s top stables.

Robert Gallagher, Head Lad at Michael’s Halford’s yard in Doneany, Kildare, won the Dedication to Racing & Breeding Award.

Robert ‘Robbie’ Gallagher has been in racing all his life and in a career spanning over 50 years with most of his early career spent as Headman with Paddy ‘Darkie’ Prendergast during which he regularly had responsibility for travelling Group 1 horses abroad. Later he worked for 13 years as Headman to Paddy’s son Kevin and helped young apprentices like Charlie Swan and Kieren Fallon through their early years as jockeys. For the past 19 years Robbie has been an integral part of Michael Halford’s training operation and, as well as having that expert eye for horses developed in 58 years in racing, he continues to be a role model for his fellow staff members.

Dorothy Fleming, Racing Secretary at Ken Condon’s yard on the Curragh, won the Administration Award.

A career spent in racing and spanning spells working for Paddy Woods, Michael Grassick and Forenaughts Stud, for the past eight years Dorothy Fleming has been racing secretary at Ken Condon Racing and has become an indispensable part of the team. She is described by her employer as being much more than the job description – indeed she is at the heart of all the business decisions in the yard and runs the office single-handedly.

Tony O’Meara was the recipient of the Leadership Award (Stud) at the 2019 Godolphin Stud and Stable Staff Awards.

O’Meara, a Stallion Manager at the world-famous Coolmore Stud in County Tipperary, has been with the stud for over 20 years and manages a stable of 14 of the world’s best stallions, including Galileo, the most successful stallion in the world.

In his role Tony organises staff rota for the 14 people under his care, Tony also liaises with vets, farriers and specialists, ensuring stallion parades are run in a safe and efficient manner. Tony also manages the quarantine and shuttling of Coolmore’s stallions to the southern hemisphere.

Previously, as a yearling manager for the farm, Tony was responsible for breaking both dual Derby winners, Camelot and Australia.

David Roche, head man at Henry De Bromhead’s yard at Knockeen, took the In The Saddle Award, David has been with the stable for over 10 years and has played a significant role in the many big race successes in that time.

Group 1 winners Sizing Europe, Special Tiara and Minella Indo were all under David’s care and his application remarked on the inspiration that he brings to all of those working around him in one of the country’s top yards.

Emma Connolly, a stalwart at Noel Meade’s yard in Castletown, County Meath, won the Leadership Award for stable employees and was selected by the 12 members of the judging committee for the much-sought after accolade.

Emma has worked in the industry for over 20 years and is travelling head lass and assistant trainer with Noel Meade’s, one of the most successful yards in the country. One of the most recognisable faces in the industry, Emma’s experience has been vital to the yard between getting the most from difficult horses and ensuring horses representing the stable are always turned out to the highest possible standard.

The Irish Stablestaff Association chose Gowran Park for the Racecourse Award. The judging committee commented on the huge strides made by the track in recent years including the doubling of the staff canteen, stable staff hospitality on racedays and general constant improvements at the racecourse. The winning prize is €2500 which is to be used for continuing to upgrade stable staff facilities.

Bernard Caldwell, Chairman, Irish Stablestaff Association, said: “It was an excellent night and it was great to see so many well-deserving members of our industry walk away with such recognition. The standard of the awards scheme was at a new level this year and I would like to thank all of those who nominated stud and stable staff, congratulate all of the finalists and thank Godolphin for their sponsorship and HRI for all their help organising the night.”

Joe Osborne, Managing Director, Godolphin Ireland, commented: “The quality of the finalists this year was off the charts and I would like to pay tribute to all of our finalists and winners. There was a huge spectrum of people participating in the awards this year and that could be seen from the enthusiasm and brilliance of the Newcomers Award, to the finalists in the Dedication to Racing & Breeding Award where the three finalists have 150 years of work in the industry between them.”

Irish Racing Excellence Award Winner and Horse Care Award Winner, Audrey O’Neill, said: ”It’s an honour because there’s some fantastic people who’ve been nominated and winning awards here tonight. I love horses and everything about them but riding them is my favourite part of it. I’ve been lucky to work with Sinndar and Sea The Stars to name but a few, it’s been brilliant working with such horses over the year. To get an award like this for doing something that you love doing is special.”

A total of ten awards, worth over €80,000 were presented by well-known writer and comedian, Jarlath Regan. David Jennings, Deputy Editor of the Racing Post in Ireland, acted as MC for the occasion.

The 10 winners and runners-up for the 2019 Godolphin Stud and Stable Staff Awards were:

Irish Racing Excellence Award

Audrey O’Neill, Rider/Groom, John Oxx’s, Kildare

Racing and Breeding Support Services Award

Wayne Middleton, Strength & Conditioning Coach, RACE, Kildare

Runners up:

Willie Gibbons, Track Foreman, Leopardstown Racecourse, Dublin
Perry Power, Track & Facilities Manager, Tipperary Racecourse, Tipperary & Cork Racecourses

Administration Award

Dorothy Fleming, Racing Secretary, Ken Condon Racing, Kildare


Geraldine Ryan, Office Manager, Camas Stud, Tipperary
Marie Rowley, Racing Secretary, Pat Flynn Racing, Waterford

Newcomer Award

Cheryl McClean, Exercise Rider & Groom, Willie McCreery’s, Kildare


Tom Harney, Stable Lad & Work Rider, Ross O’Sullivan’s, Kildare
Chris McGill, Head Lad, John J Hanlon’s, Carlow

Horse Care Award

Audrey O’Neill, Groom, John Oxx’s, Kildare


Paul Dupli, Groom/Rider, Martin Brassil’s, Kildare
Gerry Hanratty, Meadowcourt Stud, Kildare

In The Saddle Award

David Roche, Head Lad, Henry De Bromhead’s, Waterford


Ganna German, Work Rider & Travelling Groom, Sheila Lavery’s, Meath
Martin Molloy, Work Rider, Pat Fahy’s, Carlow

Leadership Award (Stud Employees)

Tony O’Meara, Stallion Manager, Coolmore, Tipperary


Helder Ferreira, Assistant Head Lad, Kildangan Stud, Kildare
Edward Farrell, Head Man, Liseux, Kildare

Leadership Award (Stable Employees)

Emma Connolly, Travelling Head Lass & Assistant Trainer, Noel Meade’s, Meath


Niall Amond, Travelling Head Lad, Jessica Harrington’s, Kildare
Damien Byrne, Yard Manager & Travelling Head Lad, Joseph O’Brien’s, Kilkenny

Dedication to Racing and Breeding Award

Robert Gallagher, Head man, Michael Halford’s, Kildare

Runners up:

Paddy Duffy, Assistant Trainer, Shane Duffy’s, Laois
Eamon Leigh, Head Lad, Jessica Harrington’s, Kildare

Racecourse Award

Gowran Park

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