- Tasmanian horseman Michael "Mick" O'Grady up for national award for dedication to racing.
- Over 40 years of service to industry has been acknowledged.
- Winner to be announced on the Gold Coast on 25 May.
The Australian edition of the SSSA, staged jointly by Thoroughbred Breeders Australia, Racing Australia, and Godolphin, is part of the worldwide series of awards that shine a spotlight on the thousands of staff whose devotion, skill and commitment ensures the survival of an entire industry.
These days O'Grady works at JKB racing at Longford and it was John Blacker who nominated him for the prestigious award in the Dedication to Racing category.
O'Grady made his way into the industry as a 16-year-old in 1979 after landing a job with the late Phillip Beveridge and it was at his Hagley training complex that O'Grady began his racing journey.
After three years with Beveridge, he moved on to Armidale Stud and that's where O'Grady sunk his teeth into learning about the animal and this was where he developed his deep love of equines under the guidance of Tasmanian Racing Hall of Fame inductee Royston Carr.
"Mick developed into a great horseman and from the outset, horses just responded well to him," Carr said.
"He is a brilliant horseman and trackwork rider who was also instrumental in the success of Fallacious that was my 1986 Tasmanian Guineas winner."
During his time at Armidale Stud, O'Grady was happy to tackle any task thrown at him, dealing with matings, foalings, and preparing yearlings for sale, as well as general farm duties.
It was experience that proved extremely valuable as he made his way to training in his own right.
After acquiring an owner-trainer's licence in 1988, he trained a couple of his father's horses and his first starter, Nero's Best, was beaten in a photo finish, which deprived him of a fairytale start to his training career.
When an opportunity arose to gain experience interstate O'Grady headed to Mornington in Victoria where he worked with former Tasmanian trainer-horse breaker Tony Krushka.
He left the industry to take on a job as a truck driver carting freight interstate and while that left him without an interest in racing, it proved to be an additional asset when he returned to Tasmania to assume a role with Graeme McCulloch at his Grenville Stud at Whitemore.
When Cressy trainer Cameron Thompson was just starting out O'Grady spent time with the young mentor and was a great asset to that stable's development.
When the word spread in 2015 that O'Grady was on the lookout for a change of scenery, JKB Racing jumped at the chance to secure his services and today he remains an integral part of that team.
"Mick has a skillset seldom found in our industry and his attitude and work ethic are second to none," Blacker said.
"He's never been one to force himself or his opinions on anyone, but he's always there if we want help or advice.
O'Grady is one of two finalists in his category, the other being Reg Fleming (Godolphin Carbine Lodge, VIC), with the winner to be announced at a function on the Gold Coast on 25 May.