Finalists – Leadership Award 2020

25 May 2020


As in most industries, leadership in thoroughbred racing and breeding is a quality that can’t always be bought or taught.

In the case of this year’s SSSA finalists Simon Johnson and Michael Shepherdson, it has come from within, to emerge in what seems an endless supply.

Johnson is the Assistant Stud Manager at Woodlands, the Hunter Valley home of Godolphin’s broodmare band and is a finalist in the Leadership category for the second time, having been nominated on each occasion by colleague Kylie Mills who describes him as “the person these Awards were created for”.

“Simon is a motivator who is constantly leading his team toward excellence, fostering their careers and always encouraging.”

Johnson grew up with horses in South Australia and has studied a wide range of industry subjects at TAFE and university.

He sees it as his duty to pass on whatever he can to his staff.

“We have an obligation to give everyone who comes into the industry, and who shows a willingness to learn, the opportunity to advance themselves,” Johnson said.

“I get tremendous satisfaction from sharing what I know with the great people we have at Godolphin and at Woodlands.

“But the greatest thing in the job for me is to work with such an outstanding group whose passion and dedication is unlimited. I can’t thank them enough for what they do for me.

“These Awards recognise not so much the people like me, but all of those who give so much to ensure the farm and the industry are successful.”

Like Johnson, Mick Shepherdson is also a previous SSSA finalist having been runner-up in the Dedication to Racing section in 2019 and his boss, leading South Australian trainer Tony McEvoy, is again generous in his praise for his Melbourne foreman.

“My Flemington stable has doubled in size in each of the past two years and Michael has made the entire process seamless,” McEvoy said.

“Our accomplishments in Victoria are a direct reflection of his dedication.”

Shepherdson joined the McEvoy-Mitchell racing team some eight years ago in Adelaide where he quickly rose to the position of foreman, moving to Melbourne with the establishment of the Flemington stable.

For McEvoy, Shepherdson is an essential part of a system that has produced exceptional results.

Typical of all nominees, Shepherdson emphasises that it is the entire staff, not just their leader, who deserves praise and reward.

“The people Tony employs are some of the best in the business and to be able to give them leadership and direction is a privilege,” he said.

“Winning awards is definitely not something you set out to do. But when it happens it’s deeply appreciated.

“This is very exciting for my entire family and I can’t thank our staff, Godolphin, the TBA and Racing Australia enough.”

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