Racing MP Matthew Hancock tops the award winners

Matthew Hancock - clear winner

December always brings a crop of awards ceremonies. Whilst the racing industry recognised its own brightest and best at the Horserace Writers’ and Photographers’ Association Derby Awards lunch on Monday, the award which ought to give racing most satisfaction took place last night at the House of Commons.

There were no great surprises at the HWPA awards, although in some cases it might have appeared to be an element of giving it to them while we can. That was certainly so in the case of the President’s Award, which went to the BBC Racing team. Sir Peter O’Sullevan was forthright in his acceptance speech.

Referring to the end of BBC racing coverage he said, “I think it is very generous to be so generous towards the BBC. They are in the business of providing a service not entering into ratings races. It’s very nice of the president, but it’s a bit like being asked to respond to one’s own funeral oration. It is like Mrs Simpson’s inamorata being given an award for abdicating.”

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Fortunately, Clare Balding, Broadcaster of the Year for the second time, will be on hand for many more years to mount a bid for a hat trick. That cannot be said for Trainer of the Year, Sir Henry Cecil, who looks to be more seriously ill every time he gets to the races. But he was surely the right man for the award this year, following all he had done to bring Frankel through his final season of racing.

Meanwhile, and, I suggest, of much more significance to racing, was the naming of West Suffolk MP, Matthew Hancock, as Sports Parliamentarian of the Year. In reaching their decision, organisers of the event, the Sports and Recreation Alliance, said he was chosen because of his “well-earned reputation as a friend to racing.”

During 2012 he has championed the sport’s cause in Parliament and shown his genuine interest in his local community, which includes Newmarket. At Westminster, he co-ordinated an all night sitting to secure a debate on his Private Members’ Bill on remote gambling, and argues the case for racing in seven separate parliamentary debates.

He caught more attention when he lost two stones in weight and learned to ride to enable him to take part in the one mile Blue Square Cavalry Charge, which was run on Horsemen and Heroes Charity Day at Newmarket. He won the race, riding John Gosden’s Dick Doughtywylie, and raising over £10,000 for Racing Welfare and the Household Cavalry Operational Casualty Fund in the process.

Well done to them all.

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