Finalists – Newcomer Award 2020
One is praised as an immense natural talent, the other as a young woman of unlimited potential.
Kelly Colledge and Alyssa Pickels are also commended for their dedication, integrity and their thirst for knowledge.
And as finalists in the Newcomer category, they represent the future of Australian thoroughbred racing
Colledge joined Grafton trainer Brendan Mackay as a stablehand in early 2019 with zero experience with racehorses.
Within a year she graduated from learning the most basic tasks to saving the stable from extinction, and, since then, to managing the entire show.
“I know it sounds dramatic,” said Mackay, “but Kelly literally saved my stable and kept my racing dream alive.”
“If she hadn’t arrived, I wouldn’t be training anymore.”
No sooner had Mackay taught Colledge the fundamentals of handling a racehorse and working in a racing stable, then he was diagnosed with a brain tumour.
Mackay’s illness presented some daunting challenges to the rookie stablehand – and revealed her considerable integrity.
“Kelly came to us with few skills and is now capable of dealing with almost any situation. Her natural talent and skills are amazing,” Mackay said.
“In August last year, Kelly was offered a start at Coolmore in Ireland and was all set to go when I was diagnosed. But she put it all on hold and stayed here and kept my business going.
“She is a truly amazing individual who deserves all the credit in the world.”
The attitude that has made Colledge an SSSA finalist reflects her approach to most things.
“I wanted to give it a go, so I took the job. Now I love everything about it,” she said.
“Being a finalist is a great thrill, an honour. I can’t thank the organisers and Godolphin enough.”
Alyssa Pickels draws similar praise from one of the industry’s most respected and knowledgeable figures, Kitchwin Hills manager Mick Malone.
“We hit the jackpot when Alyssa joined us,” Malone said.
“In my 20 years as manager at Kitchwin Hills I’ve never seen such potential.”
Pickels, a finalist in the SSSA’s Newcomer category in 2019, is credited with having “gone to a new level” in the 12 months since.
“It’s not just me who thinks so, the entire staff rave about her,” Malone says.
“From the moment she walked onto the farm I knew our industry was in good shape.
“Alyssa never stops asking questions, which is a great asset that demonstrates her thirst to learn.”
Pickels, a product of the Thoroughbred Breeders Australia Fast Track program, received two nominations for the Awards, with TBA’s Cecelia O’Gorman also endorsing her talent and dedication.
“Alyssa is unbelievably kind, well-mannered, dedicated and hard-working,” said O’Gorman, herself an SSSA winner in 2019.
“All the qualities she showed when she came to the Fast Track program are the same as those she displays every day in her work.”
Pickel’s work ethic and desire for knowledge has carried her well beyond her job description as a Stud Hand, and she now plays a front-line role in the management of 140 mares and of other stud staff at Kitchwin HIlls.
“I feel very privileged to be doing something I love so much,” Pickels said.
“It is thanks to the TBA that I’m doing this job, and it’s incredible to now be involved in these awards that the TBA, Racing Australia and Godolphin have created. I can’t thank all the organisers enough.”