The TIEA Awards: Goodness Wins Out


Nominations close Friday for the TIEA Awards | Jon Kral photo

While Terry Finley had nominated employees for the Thoroughbred Industry Employee Awards, Presented by Godolphin, in the past, he had never been a judge until 2019. The experience, he said, was one of the most positive and affirming things he has ever experienced in the Thoroughbred industry.

“On a personal level, one of the things that struck me was when they got down to the final five people, and when they came in to be in front of the judges and had a chance to deliver their story, it was amazing to see their faces and to really grasp the hard work and dedication that they have to the their employer and to the industry,” said Finley. “After they presented to us, it was incredible to be around them and to see their confidence level in their jobs and just how proud they were of the things they had done that gotten them to that point in the service to our industry.”

Finley will again serve as a judge for the awards this year, whose nomination deadline is Friday, August 14, at the end of the day. The TIEA will again give out $128,000 in awards for exemplary employees as nominated by their employers.

The awards are in their fifth year in 2020, and are designed to recognize individuals for their contributions to Thoroughbred racing and breeding. There are seven awards up for grabs: Leadership in Racing, Leadership in Breeding, Dedication to Racing, Dedication to Breeding, Administration, the Newcomer Award, and the Thoroughbred Industry Community Award.

Cate Johnson is the Director of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, and is also in her second year as a judge. One of her roles is to read the nominations and help to create a shortlist of finalists which are sent on to the panel Finley described above. But while their roles as judges are slightly different, the impact of the stories remains the same.

“Truly, the stories, when you read them about the people in our industry, it brings you to tears,” said Johnson. “It’s an emotional roller coaster from goose bumps to tears to laughter. We’re truly blessed with people from all walks of life that have the common appreciation for the racehorse-that common love that brings us together. The stories of what people have done, from their volunteer work to their day-to-day roles and responsibilities makes me feel really hopeful.”

Johnson, who worked as former trainer Kiaran McLaughlin’s office manager for several years, said that she understands that people on the track and on the farm are busy, particularly in an industry with few to no days off. But, she said, “It’s an hour out of your day to nominate someone, and it could change their life forever. It is so important to just stop for five minutes and think about the staff you have or the people you’ve been around and how you appreciate them. This is the perfect way to thank someone in the industry who has worked so hard. I just worry that we all get caught up in our day-to-day business and in our day-to-day life.”

It’s an hour out of your day to nominate someone, and it could change their life forever. — Cate Johnson

There are three ways to nominate; responses may be submitted online at as written submissions, or submitted as audio or video files on the site. Nominations may be printed, completed, and mailed in to Thoroughbred Industry Employee Awards, 2365 Harrodsburg Rd., Suite A 200, Lexington, KY 40504, or you can scan and email the nomination to [email protected]

Finally, nominations may be phoned in to a TIEA representative is standing by at (859) 977-4655 to record your nomination over the phone.

Prize money goes not only to the finalists and winners, but to the winners’ farms and stables as well.

“Their stories are meant to be told,” said Johnson. “Without them, we wouldn’t have an industry.”

Said Finley, “I respect the fact that Godolphin, as they have in any number of areas, have gone above and beyond in honoring the heroes who don’t get enough credit in our business. Last year, there was an older gentleman who worked at Lane’s End, and he had such a soft voice, and in talking to the Lane’s End people afterwards, we learned he’s been the father figure there for the last 15 or 20 years. And you realize that goodness really does win out in our business every time.”

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