There was a very strong entry for the 2009 awards, with 20 or 30 articles well worthy of being shortlisted just failing to make the top 20. These comprised eight under 26, six under 19, and six under 15.
On the downside, there was a noticeable lack of originality, particularly among the younger entrants. There were a large number of fairly similar, unconvincing pieces.
Although a detailed knowledge of racing is not required for the competition, writing on any subject needs a certain amount of accnracy and, consequently, research. For example, a horse race is not started by a gun, with the horses jumping out of traps and running laps around a stadium, which was a common misconception.
Because many of the pieces were alike and unmemorable, those which were original, and whose writers had thought hard about their subject, stood out. A good example was the highly imaginative winning under 15 article by Tom McKenna, which was as much about a car breaking down as about a racecourse, but completely different from any of the other pieces, as indeed was that age group's runner-up, Theodora Murray-Jones, who wrote about a girl trying to make enough money from a bet to go on a school trip to Russia.
Wit and humour were strong elements in Tom Cantillon's winning under 19 piece, but sadly lacking in those of many of his rivals. The theme of the runner up in this section, Morgan Curtis, set in the unnsual location of Jersey, is that the underdog occasionally wins.
The article of the under 26 winner, Alistair Millar, had a superb twist at the end, not matched by any of the others, and that of the runner up, Cathal Dennehy, was also an excellent, well written article, with a good story.
All in all, there was a great deal of quality writing, so well done all the entrants for having a go, not least a 10 year old, Lucy Eddis, who wrote an astonishingly good piece, for which she was highly commended.
Brough Scott - Chairman of the judges.
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