By Mark Simon
The finalists for the inaugural Thoroughbred Industry Employee Awards, presented by Godolphin, were announced Friday, as the committee whittled down more than 110 nominees in the five categories to 13. The winners will be announced at a ceremony at Keeneland on Oct. 7, opening day of the fall meeting of the Lexington, Ky., track.
Modeled after a similar awards program that Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin established in England 11 years ago and later instituted in Ireland and Australia, the TIE Awards recognize excellence and achievement for grooms, foaling crews, exercise riders, office staff, and others who work on farms and racetracks in the United States. To be eligible, nominees must be U.S. citizens and work at a farm or racing stable in the U.S.
The finalists are:
- Leadership Award – Farm: Victor Espinoza of Brookdale Farm, John Hall of Taylor Made, and Matt Koch of Shawhan Place.
- Leadership Award – Racing: Jimmy Barnes from trainer Bob Baffert’s stable, Melissa Cohen from trainer Richard Violette’s stable, and Laz Guerra from trainer Mike Maker’s stable.
- Dedication to Breeding Award: Everett Charles of Stone Farm, Leon Hamilton of Ashview Farm, and James Sebastian of Claiborne Farm.
- Dedication to Racing Award: Jose "Vinny" Castenada of Marty Jones Racing Stable, Danny Ramsey of Kenny McPeek Racing, and Raul Rodriguez of Art Sherman Racing.
- Thoroughbred Industry Community Award: Israel " Vega of Racetrack Chaplaincy of California.
The second and final stage of judging will take place during the week of Oct. 3, with a separate judging panel deciding the winners in each category. Since Vega is the only finalist for the Industry Community Award, he was announced as the winner.
Reid McLellan, chairman of the judging panels, said, “We couldn’t have been more pleased with the response by the industry in this the first year of the Thoroughbred Industry Employee Awards here in the United States. It wasn’t the easiest process to determine the finalists as each category was very well represented. But with Godolphin’s and Sheikh Mohammed’s generosity, we are now able to recognize and reward these individuals who truly make up the backbone of the Thoroughbred industry.”
The winners of the two Farm and two Racing awards will each receive a trophy and a prize of $10,000, with an additional $5,000 being awarded to the winners’ farm or stable. The two runners-up in those categories will win $2,500 each, with the same amount going to their farm or stable.
As the winner of the Industry Community Award, Vega will receive $10,000, and an additional $5,000 will be given to the charity of his choice.
The awards are sponsored by Godolphin and facilitated by the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders, and The Jockey Club. Media partners are the Daily Racing Form, Thoroughbred Daily News, Blood-Horse Publications, and TVG.
The panel choosing the finalists was composed of McLellan, executive director of Groom Elite Program; Daniel Fick, ROAP-accredited senior steward; Anna Seitz Ciannello, client development and public relations manager, Fasig-Tipton; Todd Mostoller, executive director of the Pennsylvania HBPA; and Stacie Clark, operations consultant, Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance.