Leading figures from the West Country racing world were among the winners at the inaugural ‘The McCoys’ held at Cheltenham Racecourse.
Opening the event, which was attended by 450, Ian Renton, The Jockey Club’s regional director for Cheltenham and the South West, said The McCoys were an opportunity “to recognise fantastic achievements in National Hunt Racing”.
While feats of brilliance, endeavour and achievement at Cheltenham, Exeter, Warwick and Wincanton were in focus, award recipients came from far and wide.
The Sue Gardner-trained Only Gorgeous, a first venture into ownership in Britain for Channel Islander Jane Edgar, and Dance Floor King, trained by Nick Mitchell for Nick Elliott, took the Winner Event Services leading novice chaser and chaser award respectively.
Gardner trains at Longdown, near Exeter.
Teenage prodigy James Bowen headed Finn Muirhead for The Jockey Club’s Pony Racing Achievement category, while jockey awards, backed by Brewin Dolphin, were given to Noel Fehily (professional), Harry Cobden from Lydford-on-Fosse in Somerset (conditional) and Page Fuller (amateur).
An award that encourages runner participation at The Jockey Club’s South West region racecourses is backed by Equi-Trek.
Paul Nicholls, who trains at Ditcheat near Shepton Mallet, was always likely to take the title for yards with more than 40 horses, and his head lad, Clifford Baker, duly accepted the prize, while Jeremy Scott, Somerset born and bred, was given the award for yards with fewer than 40 horses.
Scott, based at Dulverton, said: “This occasion is wonderful, because it brings a lot of people together, and it really is a team effort, from trainers, to staff, jockeys and owners.
“An event like this crystallises thoughts about how important everybody’s role is in racing. My award has been gained simply because we ran a lot of horses at tracks in the area, albeit we were narrowly beaten for the small trainers’ title won by Nick Williams, but there is nothing like having runners at your local tracks.
“You are rewarded when you do, and the prize we have been given, the use of a box at Cheltenham, has blown me away.
“We were given an interim prize of a lunch table during The Festival, and had a blast that day, and now the box. We will enjoy it very much – now all we need is a first winner at The Festival, and we have some very nice young stores which give us hope.”
Nicholls also took the leading trainer title at The McCoys – backed by Barton Firtop Filtration and Beach Independent Financial Advisers – and when accepting the prize said: “We were lucky with the era of Kauto Star and Denman and then at The Festival last year Bryony Frost, the daughter of a great mate of mine, Jimmy Frost [from Buckfastleigh], won us the Foxhunter Chase on Pacha Du Polder.
“People talk about the trainer’s championship and how hard it will be to beat Nicky Henderson at a national level, but it is incredibly tough to win races in the South West.”
Nicholls lost his champion trainer title to Henderson last season, despite a personal best 171 winners, although he did avail himself of a bet on the Lambourn trainer.
He told the audience of a similar flutter on Dan Skelton “at 33/1” for this year’s title – though he will be glad to lose the bet if he can regain his crown.
The McCoys are new awards for owners, trainers, jockeys, stable staff and horses running at Cheltenham and the three other Jockey Club Racecourses in the South West, Warwick, Wincanton and Exeter.
The awards are named after Sir A P McCoy, the recording-breaking 20-time champion Jump Jockey who retired from riding in 2015.