[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his year’s Horse Writers & Photographers Association Derby Awards was the 51st, I think I’ve been to about half a dozen of them in the last decade. The first was in 2006 with my mate Andrew Mount who was my lunch partner again this year. The well-seasoned often say is that if you remember the Derby Awards then you weren’t there. Looking around this year I’m not going to argue with that, but yours truly was of course on his best behaviour representing my new employers Star Sports for the first time.
For those not lucky enough to have been to the Royal Lancaster on the first Monday in December, it really is the best lunch in London. The great and the good mingle with the possibly not so good to celebrate the best in horseracing media. It’s a jolly affair with lots of banter and a chance to shoot the breeze with top trainers, jockeys, TV celebrities and of course doyens of the sporting pen, or rather laptop.
It has been said that beneath the camaraderie there is a competitive undertone from some of those jostling to be a nose in front at the line. This year there was a mixture of those well used to accolades, lifetime achievers, the already famous and lively outsiders though the latter category would differ depending on who you talked to.
As with every year the event was bubbling with talented people, nominated or otherwise. Awards went to some legends of both the turf, typewriter and telephoto lens.
David Elsworth HWPA President’s Award
Seamus Buckley George Ennor Trophy for Outstanding Achievement
Aidan O’Brien was voted HWPA Flat Trainer of the Year
Frankie Dettori the 2017 Flat Jockey of the Year
Khalid Abdullah Owner of the Year
Charlie Appleby International Trainer of the Year
Colin Tizzard Jump Trainer of the Year
Richard Johnson Jump Jockey of the Year
Luke Harvey The Peter O’Sullevan Trophy for Broadcaster of the Year
Chris McGrath Racing Writer of the Year
Marcus Armytage Racing Reporter of the Year
Dan Abraham Photographer of the Year
Megan Ridgwell Picture of the Year
Amongst all the presentations there were two that really stood out.
The first of the duo was when Megan Ridgwell of Megan Rose Photography won picture of the year for her photo taken at Chelmsford. I was fortunate to meet Megan just before we sat down to lunch, introduced by my mate Andrew who frequents Chelmsford and has a penchant for All-Weather racing. It’s safe to say that she had no expectations at all of winning and who could blame her up against goliaths of the game including Edward Whitaker who probably has a special room for all his past awards. The mixture of disbelief and delight on her face as she was announced the winner was a picture, marvellous scenes.
The second was Luke Harvey winning Broadcaster Of The Year. That Luke was in the final four in what was an open vote of HWPA members had already displayed the affection that he is obviously held in by his fellow members. He dismissed his chances of winning to anyone that spoke to him offering their best wishes prior to the event. Maybe quite how many well-wishers there were should have marked his card. They evidently didn’t though because there was no faking the utter disbelief and absolute joy on his face as he bound on to the stage to accept his award. That was something to witness in itself but to the backdrop of a virtually unanimous and spontaneous standing ovation was genuinely uplifting and the highlight of the whole event for me.
I expect Barney Curley’s hand will be outstretched in congratulation when he and Luke next cross paths.