2019 Lycetts Team Champion Award winners celebrated at Institute of Directors

Jedd O’Keeffe and Tom Dascombe were announced yesterday as the 2019 winners of the Lycetts Team Champion Award, which celebrates the British racehorse training yards with the highest standards of employee management.

The announcement was made at a ceremony at the Institute of Directors, Pall Mall, London, where the winning yards were presented with their trophy and awarded a £4,000 prize for each yard to benefit and support their teams. ITV Racing presenter Sally Ann Grassick hosted the ceremony.

Collecting the award for husband Jedd, Andrea O’Keeffe said “”Firstly it should be Jedd standing here but he has flu – the human version! – so he is really sorry he can’t be here.


“It means the absolute world but it’s really about these guys and the team that we have who are amazing. We love working with them, they just pull out all the stops in every respect. This whole process has been a really good thing for us to go through as a team. We can’t believe we’ve won and to hear the comments on the other yards you are sitting here thinking ‘there is no way we are going to win!’ because everyone is doing such amazing work in their yards too.”

Tom Dascombe, playing down his role in the nomination, said “”I think we have a good team spirit. It’s really all down to the team and nothing to do with me. This award is for the team and is not for me.”_I2I7438







The National Trainers Federation (NTF) and Lycetts Insurance Brokers created the Lycetts Team Champion Award to:

  • Deliver praise and a sense of achievement for the racehorse training yards with the highest standards of employee management
  • Showcase the positive results of developing a team that works well together
  • Spread the message about safe working practices
  • Improve recruitment and retention rates by promoting the most successful management practices and encouraging their wider adoption among racehorse trainers.

The assessment criteria for Lycetts Team Champion Award are based on The Winning Approach, a best practice standard developed for the NTF by consultants Sport and Beyond. They include effective recruitment and induction systems, a safe working environment, leadership, communication and management structures, developing staff to fulfil their potential, and rewarding achievement. Development of The Winning Approach and the award was funded with the help of The Racing Foundation.

Yogi Breisner, renowned for his stellar accomplishments as a competitor and team leader in the field of Three Day Eventing, chaired the judging panel and presented the prizes. Commenting on the judges’ experience of the awards and the assessment, Breisner said, “In this, the second year of the Lycetts Team Champion Award, it’s very encouraging to see how a lot of trainers have embraced the concept of the Award and have upped their game and improved from the already high standard that we saw last year.”

Rupert Arnold, Chief Executive of the NTF, said, “We received another very strong set of nomnations for this second edition of the Lycetts Team Champion Award. Congratulations to this year’s winners who set an amazing example but let’s remember that there are now 52 trainers (10% of all licensed yards) who are accredited with a star rating to show their business operates to a recognised best practice standard for staff management. ”


Notes for editors:


The short lists for the two categories were:

40+ horses Fewer than 40 horses
Andrew Balding Nick Alexander
Tom Dascombe Dan Kübler
Warren Greatrex Jedd O’Keeffe
Richard Hughes Richard Phillips

 Industry standard

A copy of The Winning Approach, the award nomination form and an explanation of the award can be found on the NTF website here. The Lycetts Team Champion Award promotes practices that are most closely aligned with strengthening the team ethos.



Sean Murray receives 2019 Toby Balding Award

The National Trainers Federation (NTF) is delighted to announce that Sean Murray is the 2019 recipient of the Toby Balding Award.

A presentation was made at the Lycetts Team Champion Award presentation on Thursday 28th February at the Institute of Directors in London.

The annual award, worth £4000, offers an exciting opportunity for ambitious employees in British racing yards to widen their knowledge and train to acquire new skills.


The NTF launched the award for racing staff in memory of the late Toby Balding, who as a trainer was dedicated to the support and development of young people in the horse racing industry. It is funded by the National Trainers Federation Charitable Trust (NTFCT) from a donation made by the Adrian Swire Charitable Trust in memory of Toby Balding and is presented to a member of racing staff who demonstrates a desire to further his or her career in the horseracing industry and to train for a higher-level qualification or undertake personal development training.

About Sean Murray

Sean Murray has worked his way up the career ladder beginning with weekend work for Peter Beaumont while still at school. He was in the first cohort of staff when David O’Meara started out on his training career, progressing to be head lad. He is now Assistant Trainer to Roger Fell at Arthington Barn.

“I have gained a vast amount of racing and equine knowledge working alongside many talented horse men and women” says Sean. “We have a variety of people from different backgrounds and levels of experience and I have a person-centred approach to their career development. I make sure we look at their individual strengths and qualities and I am positive about what can be done however inexperienced or anxious the person might be.

“I would like to use funds from this bursary to invest in more training such as Introduction to Management for the Racing Industry course and Level One NCFE Award in Mentoring. I am so grateful to the NTF Charitable Trust for enabling me to gain more training to further my career.”

Underlining the career progression that Sean Murray has made on his own initiative, Roger Fell commented,” Sean started his career at the British Racing School and has progressed through the ranks to his current position as Assistant Trainer. Sean is a key member of the training team here at Arthington Barn and has put in the hard yards working as a positive role model, putting in long hours to ensure we achieve the best results. This bursary has come at an important time in Sean’s career as it will allow him to fund his ongoing development, and will help him to achieve his ambition to become a licensed trainer.”

Notes to editors:

The Toby Balding Award offers an exciting opportunity for ambitious employees in British racing yards to widen their knowledge and train to acquire new skills. There is more about the award here.

The National Trainers Federation Charitable Trust aims to provide training for employees within the racing industry so they can develop their knowledge and skills. There is a special focus on training to enable those who meet with an accident or ill health to remain in the industry. Racing Welfare manages the applications on behalf of the NTFCT trustees.

For more information, please contact Rupert Arnold or Shelley Perham at the NTF.




Shortlisted finalists announced for Lycetts Team Champion Award

The National Trainers Federation (NTF) is delighted to announce the two shortlists for the inaugural Lycetts Team Champion Award.

Lycetts Team Champion Award celebrates the racehorse training yards that have developed a strong team ethos through the highest standards of staff management and safe working practices. There are more details on the NTF website at this link: https://www.racehorsetrainers.org/industry/awards.asp

The award has two categories – one for yards with 40 or more horses; and one for yards with fewer than 40 horses. The shortlists (in alphabetical order) are:

40+ horses Fewer than 40 horses
Tom Dascombe Nick Alexander
Warren Greatrex Martin Keighley
Mark Johnston Seamus Mullins
Dan Skelton Suzy Smith

Under the grading system, all the shortlisted yards are awarded 3-star status. Competition was extremely strong and the standard of nominations very high resulting in other yards also achieving a 1, 2 or 3-star rating.

The judges would like to emphasise how impressed they were with the very high standard of nominations and the remarkable progress taking place in management practices in racing yards.

Laura Whyte, former Director of HR at John Lewis, commented “I thoroughly enjoyed assessing the entries and was impressed at the breadth of initiatives going into recruitment and development at many yards – especially the care taken of our youngest members of staff.  The various recognition schemes such as “employee of the month” and similar show how well some trainers work on celebrating individuals who make a big difference to the team effort. I’m looking forward to visiting the short listed yards to see and learn more about their ways of working.”

Equally complimentary was another judge, Kevin Parsons, Union Learn Project Manager for National Association of Stable Staff, who said ““It has been an absolute pleasure reading through the nomination forms and some fantastic work and practices are going on out there in many yards across the country.”

Dana Mellor added her thoughts on the nominations: “Good business practice is essential in racing yards if trainers want to recruit and retain good staff and the nominations for the award reflect high standards throughout Britain and across the jump/flat divide. We now have an opportunity to harvest this by recognising trainers who are putting people as well as horses first. By rewarding them as role models, good practice can be rolled out to all yards and become part of the culture of racing. It’s a huge step forward.”

n the next phase of the award, the judges will visit the shortlisted yards during January 2018 to meet the team members and get first-hand experience of the practices that have been described in the first stage nominations. The winners will be announced at the NTF Annual General Meeting on 22nd February 2018.

Speaking on behalf of the NTF, Chief Executive Rupert Arnold said, “We would like to thank all the yards who collaborated so well to describe in detail the way they work as a team and are engaged and developed as individuals. The shortlists are a product of the scoring system and while competition for the eight places was intense, yards that have not made the shortlists should be proud of what they are doing in their workplace and will have a star rating to prove their yard is a great place to work.”



The statistics for the number of horses in each yard are provided by Weatherbys and based on a rolling monthly average from 1st January to 30th November 2017.

The judges are Yogi Breisner, Dana Mellor, Kevin Parsons, Olly Stevens and Laura Whyte. Before judging began, they each declared conflicts of interest and are not judging any yards with which they have a commercial, employment or personal interest.

The Lycetts Group has grown to become one of the UK’s leading independently-operated insurance brokers with 15 offices in the UK. Lycetts specialises in farm and estate insurance and also provides bespoke financial services, commercial and bloodstock insurance advice.

The Racing Foundation has contributed to the funding of the Team Champion Award and The Winning Approach, a bespoke industry standard for the management of staff in British racing yards. The Winning Approach was developed by the NTF with assistance from Sport and Beyond consultancy.