Duo McLernon and Stephens in running for racing awards

Black Corton and Bryony Forst won the Grade One Kauto Star Novices Chase at Kempton.
Black Corton and Bryony Forst won the Grade One Kauto Star Novices Chase at Kempton.
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TWO stalwarts of Malton racing are in the running for this year’s Godolphin Stud and Stable Staff awards.

Jessica McLernon, now an assistant trainer at Richard Fahey’s all-conquering yard after starting work at Musley Bank Stables as a groom in 2011, is shortlisted for the Leadership award.

Jessica McLernon is an assistant trainer to Richard Fahey who is pictured with last year's Grade One hero Ribchester.

Jessica McLernon is an assistant trainer to Richard Fahey who is pictured with last year's Grade One hero Ribchester.

As well as managing day-to-day duties including rotas, allocating staff to go racing and managing veterinary visits, she keeps in close contact with the office and 75 staff who help make the yard run so efficiently.

Her positive, friendly attitude and astute manner and natural management skills have always shone through and she has worked hard to hone her skills in managing, motivating and mentoring the staff to get the best out of everyone.

Meanwhile Ben Stephens, attached to Ruth Jefferson’s stable following the death of her father Malcolm earlier this month, is among the nominees for the Rider Groom category.

He joined Newstead Cottage Stables four years ago and is particularly good with young and difficult horses. His talent and patience with top horses such as Cloudy Dream have reaped rich rewards for the owners and yard over the past couple of seasons.

His horses are always beautifully turned out and his affinity with the breed, particularly his ability to pick up on a horse’s wellbeing, has become invaluable.

A total of £125,000 of prize money is on offer at Monday’s awards which are open to 6,000 people who work in the racing industry.

Paul Nicholls is unable to put his finger on the reason Bryony Frost and Black Corton have gelled so well, but the pair go in search of a seventh win together in the Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase at Ascot.

Given they have only met with defeat just once in seven starts, their success story has been one of the highlights of a season dominated by rising star Frost’s succession of big race triumphs.

Black Corton, owned by Andy Stewart and TV star Jeremy Kyle among others, began his season at Fontwell in June and completed his rise to stardom by winning Kempton’s Grade One Kauto Star Novices Chase on Boxing Day.

Even though the long-term objective is Cheltenham’s RSA Chase next month, Nicholls has resisted the temptation to replace Frost with one of his more experienced stable jockeys.

“I’m not sure why him and Bryony get on so well together, something just seems to have clicked with Black Corton this season and they’ve just been on a roll. One thing he has done is progress from race to race, and thrived on it,” he said.

“He astounded me in the Kauto Star, he went a right good gallop from the start, and kept going a good gallop. He is not a big, scopey horse like Denman. He is a small, athletic horse that has done really well. He has got to a rating that is quite lofty now and unless he progresses next year, it will be quite hard. But he has done nothing wrong – who knows, he is progressive and could be a surprise package for us. He is tough, jumps and Ascot on Saturday will be a nice race for him.”

Meanwhile, Malton trainer Ruth Jefferson steps Mount Mews up in class after being beaten on his second start over fences at Doncaster. “He’s in good form and we’ll give it a go,” she said. “I suppose Black Corton is the one to beat.”

Even though Nicky Henderson has a record six Champion Hurdle wins to his name following the triumph of Buveur D’Air last March, the Grand National remains a notable absence from the champion trainer’s CV.

His best hope this year is Gold Present who reppears in Ascot’s three mile Swinley Chase today in the colours of West Yorkshire businessman John Cotton and his wife Barbara.