Catterick Racecourse provided the venue for an extra special Lifetime in Racing Award today, 24th July. Best friends Jock Bennett, Assistant to Britain’s winning-most trainer Mark Johnston, and Kenny Williams, Travelling Head Lad for Michael Dods, received the honour from Racing Welfare jointly, such is the inseparable nature of their friendship. Each received a trophy on the day and were on course at Catterick as part of the Go Racing in Yorkshire Summer Festival to collect their awards. The 3.10 race was named after them as a mark of their combined service to the industry which totals an astounding 96 years combined.
Amazingly, Jock Bennett has only had two employers in his life. His career started in 1972 with Bill Watts before moving to Johnston Racing 25 years later. Jock initially joined Bill at his Hurgill Lodge yard in Richmond as an apprentice and had two rides on the racecourse. He progressed through the ranks to become Travelling Head Lad and ultimately Head Lad before leaving in 1997, a quarter of a century after he arrived.
Jock has fond memories from his time with Bill, not least because it was where he met his great friend Kenny Williams. He worked with many great horses at Hurgill, including the 1985 Arlington Million winner Teleprompter.
He left Watts’ yard to work for Mark Johnston in 1997 as second Head Lad. Never one to shy away from progress, Mark moved to the yard manager system he has in place today and appointed Jock in this role, with Hayley Kelly as his assistant. He moved on to become Assistant Trainer in 2005, a role he is still in today.
Winner of Employee of the Year at the 2013 Godolphin Stud and Stable Staff Awards, Jock says there have been too many good horses to mention during his time with Johnston, but singles out Attraction and Royal Rebel amongst his favourites. When asked about his secret for such longevity in the industry, Jock fittingly cites loyalty as being key.
Kenny Williams started out in 1970 for George Noel Robinson before moving to Ken Payne as his apprentice at Kingsley House in Middleham. He was there for three years before moving as an apprentice to Bill Watts where his great friendship with Jock was born. Seeking opportunities to further his career as a jockey, Kenny rode over jumps for a couple of years for Basil Richmond before going back to Hurgill Lodge where he stayed for 17 years.
In total Kenny had 10 winners on the flat and 10 over jumps and in his time with Watts rode Teleprompter in all his work at home. He remembers many great horses throughout his stretch with Bill, including Mountains Cross. Kenny was also employed by Jack and Linda Ramsden for seven years, and further seven years with Alan Swinbank before taking his Travelling Head Lad role with Michael Dods where he has been since 2013.
Kenny has travelled widely with the likes of top class sprinters Meccas Angel and Mabs Cross and says that his secret to a long and successful career in racing is hard work and paid tribute to his wife Debbie for all of her support.