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Baker gets a Lesters ovation on a night to celebrate our weighing room stars

The 2018 winners at the Stobart Lesters: Jason Watson, Eoin Walsh, Richard Johnson, George Baker, Andrew Thornton, James Bowen and Nicola Currie
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What a coup! The powers behind the 2018 Stobart Lesters have only gone and managed to book Alan Dedicoat, Strictly Come Dancing's voiceover man, for racing's final black-tie function of the year.

Just seven days earlier Dedicoat, known widely as 'The voice of the balls' for his work on the BBC's National Lottery programmes, added his distinctive tones to the Strictly final, watched by 12.7 million people.

Now, performing to an audience that is slightly smaller and generally shorter, he provides gold dust to the Professional Jockeys Association bash, this year back in London at a hotel situated just five minutes from Waterloo station, most helpfully for those jockeys based at Upper Halliford or Effingham Junction. 

A beaming George Baker with his Lesters award and wife Nicola (left) and prize presenter Amy Derham

What becomes apparent from the moment hosts Luke Harvey and Hayley Moore take to the stage is the people sitting around one particular table (mainly young men) are ready to provide vocal support.

They become particularly enthused when Nicola Currie, also based on the table, wins the opening Lady Jockey of the Year award, for which none of the young men was eligible.

Currie is also a nominee for the apprentices' gong, but this one goes to Roger Charlton's new stable jockey Jason Watson, who Moore remembers having walked into her father's yard aged 14 with impeccable hair.

It is still impeccable. Watson says he spent 30 minutes working on the flowing locks, which are now also retained by Charlton and on this occasion feature a strand falling playfully to the brow.

Jason Watson's hair is as impressive as ever as he receives his Lesters trophy from Karen Smith

As Watson walks back to his seat one tongue-in-cheek heckler screams: "You rat!", mimicking the line famously shouted by Patricia Routledge to Dame Thora Hird when the latter claimed best actress honours at the 1989 Baftas.

"You rat!" is again bellowed, this time in the direction of James Bowen (more of him later) when he collects the 2017-18 conditional jockeys' award, while there is further noise when Dedicoat says Flat Jockey Special Recognition nominee Steve Drowne has "moved across the floor to become a BHA stipendiary steward".

The comment produces a few boos across the room, which in turn prompts Dedicoat to interject with: "Stop it!" The panto season has definitely started.

Drowne is a fine man but the trophy goes to George Baker, who, along with wife Nicola, gets a standing ovation.

"I don't really remember all the bad stuff, which is a blessing in disguise," says Baker of the accident that ended his career, before changing the subject and adding: "The only thing I have to do tonight is find out where Carl Llewellyn got his Botox done."

Harvey then reveals Llewellyn's new nickname is 'Christmas tree', on the basis the dual Grand National-winning former jockey is now dead from the roots up.

Eoin Walsh receives his Flat Ride of the Year Lesters award from Racing Post managing editor Tony Smurthwaite
Following the main course Eoin Walsh takes the Racing Post Flat Ride of the Year silverware and tells Harvey: "I jumped out of the stalls and kept pushing".

After that it's Bowen's turn again when he wins the equivalent jumping award for his performance aboard Raz De Maree in the Welsh National. He informs Moore he will be doing no Christmas shopping until Christmas Eve, which she lets him know is "appalling".

She then tells him how proud his parents must be, to which he replies: "I suppose so."

There is more support from the evening's happiest table, one of whose members applauds Bowen heartily while calling him something that means nothing to me but, based on a subsequent online urban dictionary search, is so unspeakably rude it cannot possibly be repeated here.

Special recognition award winner Andrew Thornton with Stan Mellor and Luke Harvey at the Stobart Lesters

In the evening's final segment Andrew Thornton collects his Jump Jockey Special Recognition award from contemporary Stan Mellor and admits: "I kept going perhaps a bit longer than I should have done, but I enjoyed it so much."

To be fair, we enjoyed watching him, as we do Richard Johnson, who wraps up the night by being handed the Jump Jockey of the Year trophy from Sir Anthony McCoy.

Sir Anthony McCoy hands Richard Johnson his Jump Jockey of the Year prize at the Stobart Lesters

"He's the perfect role model in every way," says McCoy, while Johnson, typically self-deprecating, says: "I think I've been lucky every day of my life."

You need more than luck, though. Those on the roll call of winners show how much talent and hard work makes a difference.

Winners at the Stobart Lesters 2018

Lady Jockey of the Year Nicola Currie

Apprentice Jockey of the Year Jason Watson

Conditional Jockey of the Year James Bowen

Flat Jockey Special Recognition George Baker

Flat Ride of the Year Eoin Walsh on Storm Lightning at Wolverhampton on September 22

Jump Ride of the Year James Bowen on Raz De Maree at Chepstow on January 6

Jump Jockey Special Recognition Andrew Thornton

Flat Jockey of the Year Oisin Murphy

Jump Jockey of the Year Richard Johnson

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The only thing I have to do tonight is find out where Carl Llewellyn got his Botox done
E.W. Terms
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