When these awards were started in memory of Martin Wills back in 1993, I was attracted to the idea of fresh young writers being encouraged to pitch themselves at the racing scene. Sixteen sessions on that attraction still pulls.
Once or twice in the early years, there was a tendency for entrants to feel they were supposed to be delivering a departmental report on the state of racing, and just occasionally a flight of fancy headed so determinedly off the rails that a fall could be the only outcome. But the essential vitality which comes from new minds facing into old mater has remained the competition’s greatest asset.
We had a good entry for the 2008 Awards. For the first time, entries were invited for three categories – under 15 as well as under 19 and under 26 – and prizes were awarded to both winner and runner-up in each category. The overall entry of 130 – 35 in the under 26 category, 21 in the under 19 category and 74 in the under 15 category – was one of the highest ever totals.
The under 26 category was of a universally high standard, and it was hard to select the short list. The topics were varied and interesting, and the articles were generally well written.
The above comments also apply to the under 19 category, although the quality was more varied and it was easier to select a shortlist. The two prize winning articles were both vividly written from first hand experience, the winner’s article being full of sensitive insights and the runner up being original, objective and amusing.
In the under 15 category, the best were those that showed imagination. Only a small knowledge of racing was needed to describe the making of an Ascot hat or a tree being turned into a winning post – the subjects chosen by the runner-up and the 10 year-old highly commended for a remarkable piece. Again, the quality of the writing was varied, but the best were excellent.
A big thank you to all the entrants – and please keep trying. Remember, particular importance will be attached by the judges to originality, use of language and entertainment, as well as obvious enthusiasm for both writing and the subject matter. Your article should be one that the Racing Post and The Irish Field will be pleased to publish and their readership to read.
Chairman of the judges
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