Tommy Woods - 'It absolutely made my year and I didn’t think I’d win'
Tommy Woods, travelling head lad for Paul Nolan, has been involved in racing since he was a teenager.
The 76-year-old was triumphant at the 2017 Godolphin Stud and Stable Staff Awards when landing the Dedication To Racing Award.
In advance of the 2018 awards – nominations for which close on Monday – Woods describes what it meant to take home the prize, and the qualities needed to carve out a successful career.
What makes for good stable staff?
It's simple; attention to detail. If you pay close attention to detail everything else will fall into place, but if you go around with a 'sure, everything will be grand' kind of attitude, that's when things will slip.
That's no use to anyone and if you don't do the job right there's no point in doing it at all. You get out of this job only what you put in. You need to work hard in racing but if you pay attention to detail you will get far.
Racing is not a nine-to-five job. You need to make sure your horse is fed, watered and loved before heading home in the evenings rather than counting down the hours until five o'clock. Horses are amazing animals and I just love being around them. If you are kind to a horse they'll be very kind back and the bonds you can build up with them are amazing.
How important are these awards?
It gives everybody in a yard something to aim for and encourages people to do their job right, which can only be good for the trainers, owners and, most importantly, the horses. The awards are a terrific initiative.
What did it mean to win?
I could have been knocked over by a leaf on the night of the awards. It absolutely made my year and I didn't think I'd win it. It was lovely meeting Brian Cody, a man who I really admire.
The meal and everything was lovely but what was even more lovely was winning the €5,000! Everybody was so chuffed to get a share of the prize-money on the night and I think it was lovely to see the hard grafters rewarded. It was unreal.
What is the biggest challenge stable staff face?
Not so much a challenge but the one constant disappointment is how poorly some of the tracks in Ireland cater for stable staff. You go into the canteens at some of the smaller tracks and, I’m not messing, you wouldn't give some of the food they are serving to a dog.
It's very disappointing to see because when you go racing in Britain and France, you realise how bad some of our tracks are. Some of the canteens need to improve a lot as it's just not fair.
If you could change one thing about your job, what would it be?
Absolutely nothing. I've loved every minute of my life spent in racing ever since I led up my first horse at Baldoyle racecourse as a
13-year-old. That racecourse is no longer there as they built a housing estate on it, so that will tell you how old I am!
What is the best thing about your job?
I've had the privilege of working with some brilliant horses. The likes of Noble Prince, who won at Cheltenham, was a star and the mighty Joncol was a gentle giant. He was 18 hands high and I nicknamed him Tiny!
People used to get some laugh out of me walking around the parade ring saying, 'Come on Tiny.' I love all animals and I just love being around horses. Working with them on a daily basis is just fantastic.
1. Racecourse Award
2. Racing and Breeding Support Services Award
3. Administration Award
4. Newcomer Award (Stud and Stable employees)
5. Horse Care Award (stud and stable employees)
6. In the Saddle Award (stud and stable employees)
7. Travelling Head Person Award
8. Leads by Example Award (stud and stable employees)
9. Dedication to Racing and Breeding Award
10. Irish Racing Excellence Award
*Total cash prize fund is €84,000, with individual awards ranging from upwards of €500 for some of the runners-up, to €5,000 for various winners, while eight of the awards also include a cash prize to be shared between the respective winners' colleagues.
The winner of the Newcomer Award will also receive a five-day educational trip to Dubai with flights and accommodation included.
For full details and nomination forms visit studandstablestaffawards.ie or email firstname.lastname@example.org.