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Chepstow-based Sarah Guest Named Employee Of The Year 2023

Racing
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24 February 2023

Chepstow-based Sarah Guest named Employee of the Year at the 2023 Godolphin Thoroughbred Industry Employee Awards

Chepstow-based Sarah Guest believes horse racing can provide a positive future for people working in the industry – at all levels.

Sarah – who lives just a mile from Chepstow Racecourse – has scooped two awards at the 2023 Thoroughbred Industry Employee Awards, held at York Racecourse.

Not only was she named Employee of the Year for her role as yard manager at trainer John O’Shea’s stables in Gloucestershire, but she also won the Leadership Award.

The awards – sponsored by Godolphin - meant a combined cash prize of £15,000 for Sarah, with the same amount to be shared among her colleagues at the yard.

“I was nominated, but surprised to win my category because I was up against two fantastic other ladies,” says Sarah, who has worked for the O’Shea operation at Elton Racing for over 20 years.

“All you can do is cross your fingers on the day and hope it goes well.

“These awards are amazing because they celebrate the unsung heroes behind the scenes. We don’t get seen like the jockeys and trainers do.

“But on the day of the awards, we were just made to feel so special and appreciated. They looked after us all and it was lovely.”

Sarah was commended for her outstanding work in caring for both her horses and looking out for the welfare and progression of her colleagues.

Her commitment to mental health support has meant extra learning undertaken on her part to ensure she is able to offer the best possible support.

“I run the yard and manage all the staff and it’s a challenge for people because we are talking long hours for staff in an intense environment,” adds Sarah.

“There are times when people need a bit of extra help and I’ve made sure I’ve done my best to try and support people.

“Racing has become more aware of this in recent times, that these are big tasks for young people to take on at perhaps just 16 years of age.

“Whatever route people choose to go down, whether it’s as jockeys or stable staff who want to go down a different direction and be the backbone of the operation, they need help as much as anyone else.”

Despite the current economic challenges to the sport, she is optimistic about the future.

“I think racing offers fantastic career opportunities to young people, in both England and Wales, so long as they get the right level of support.” 

And from her position of insight, she has just one plea to those offering support services to staff: Please consider racing staff’s difficult hours.

“Please remember that people need support, but it’s very difficult if you offer services at 10 o’clock in the morning when people have to be out working. We need that support in the afternoons or evenings, but I’m hoping that with this award my voice on that can be heard.”

Sarah’s leadership qualities shone through last year when O’Shea was out of action through illness for three months and she was able to step up and make sure the yard continued to flourish.

Nick Luck, chair of the judging panel, said: “Sarah is a richly deserving winner of this prestigious award and, despite the high quality of the finalists brought forward, she was a stand-out selection to be named the Employee of the Year.

“There can be no doubting the importance of Sarah to the John O’Shea operation, which was demonstrated to greatest effect during 2022 when John O’Shea was unwell. 

“Sarah is a shining example of the sort of hard work and dedication that keeps yards up and down the country running, and we as an industry can be rightly proud of her dedication to ensuring the wellbeing of her colleagues and the horses in her care.

“It is particularly pleasing to name an Employee of the Year from outside the nation’s most powerful yards. I hope this encourages all employers, no matter their size, to nominate their staff for recognition in 2024.”

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