By Mark Brassel
Top country jockey Ben Looker added to his already sterling season by landing the Country Jockey of the Year award during Friday night’s NSW Country & Provincial Racing Awards Dinner held at Four Seasons Hotel.
Looker, who turned 28 this month, won his biggest race in April when he captured the $500,000 Country Championships Final at Royal Randwick aboard Victorem.
Other award winners included Narromine-based Ricky Blewitt, who also doubles up as the local track’s course manager, when he picked up his second successive Country Approved Rider of the Year.
And Cejay Graham, who booted home 39 winners for the season, received the Country Apprentice Jockey of the Year award.
The Monstar was crowned Country Horse of the Year Award with his trainer, Brett Cavanough, claiming the Country Trainer of the Year title.
The Simon Nivison Special Achievement Award was awarded posthumously to the family of Noel Leckie who passed away early last year.
Apart from having chaired Scone Race Club, Mr Leckie was an avid breeder and owner and was instrumental in his Club gaining its now successful Stand-Alone Saturday race meeting during the Scone Cup Carnival.
Muswellbrook Race Club received Country TAB Race Club of the Year for strengthening local community involvement, maintaining local business and council relationships, developing marketing strategies to increase raceday attendances and animal welfare initiatives.
Narrandera Race Club is Community Race Club of the Year having constantly produced exceptional results in participation and attendance records, whilst sponsorship has reached new levels, with their racetrack and facilities consistently presented in excellent condition.
“Judges found there were many great achievements during the year by many race clubs, so they could not separate Coonamble Jockey Club and Shoalhaven City Turf Club for the Outstanding Achievement Award,” said Brian Charman, Racing NSW Country’s Executive Officer.
“Coonamble was recognised for its true ‘feel good’ community event during their Showcase meeting in June. There was such a buzz within the community leading up to the day which saw a large crowd gathered on a cold wintery day enjoying themselves.”
Shoalhaven City Turf Club (Nowra) was acknowledged following significant achievements in securing Government Grant Funding. The Club was successful in acquiring a NSW Government Infrastructure Grant Funding enabling them to renovate a function room including an extension of a new balcony and an accessible lift.
Recipients of Provincial awards were Brenton Avdulla (Jockey of the Year), James Cummings (Trainer), Jean Van Overmeire (Apprentice Jockey) and connections of In Her Time (Horse of the Year).
Brian Judd was given the Ted McCabe Provincial Recognition Award for services to the industry. Mr Judd was former CEO of Racing NSW Country and a former CEO of Newcastle Jockey Club and the award acknowledged his contributions to the NSW Thoroughbred Racing Industry and, in particular, the Provincial sector.
Following his retirement, Judd returned to his roots and was appointed as an Executive Consultant with NJC where he was instrumental in developing a major Strategic Plan for the Club. Judd’s involvement with NJC didn’t finish there and in 2016 he was appointed an independent Director of the Club, a position he holds to this day.