Horse racing writing competition announced

Competition has a horse racing theme
Competition has a horse racing theme

KEEN on horse racing and creative writing? Think you could be the next Dick Frncis?

If so you could be in the running to win a top prize of more than £1000 – and even get the chance to write for the national and racing press.

Entires are now being sought for the Wills Writing Awards, set up in the memory of journalist and amateur jockey Martin Wills, who tragically died at the age of just 39.

The Awards, now in their 20th year, are for creative writing, fact or fiction, centred around a horseracing theme. They are open to young people resident in the UK or the Republic of Ireland, with three categories: under 26, under 19 and under 15. Each category offers substantial prizes, the main one being £1,250.

Previous winners have gone on to write for the national and racing press, the news agencies and the broadcast media.

Those aged under 26, 19 and 15 at January 1 this year are invited to submit a single article by February 29 via the ‘Entry Requirements’ section of the Wills Writing Awards website.

The chairman of the judging panel, racing commentator Brough Scott, said: “The Wills Writing Awards offer a unique, once a year opportunity for any young writer with an ounce of interest in racing or horses.

“In the direct words of the not entirely racing-orientated John McEnroe, if you miss them ‘you cannot be serious’!”

The judges are looking for imagination, use of language and entertainment. Quality of writing is key – a knowledge of horse racing is unnecessary. No previous experience of published or competitive writing is required.

The maximum word counts are 1,200 (under 26 and under-19 sections) or 800 words (under 15).

The article must not be published prior to the announcement of the winners. Schools should not submit more than three entries per class.

As well as cash prizes, the winners will be published in the Racing Post and The Irish Field. The under 26 winner will get the chance of work experience at the Racing Post.

The awards will be announced and presented at Newmarket’s prestigious Craven Meeting on Wednesday, April 18, when all six prize winners will be given an expenses paid day’s racing, including a reception in a private luncheon room generously made available by the Racecourse. There will also be a tour of two leading stables.

The eight judges are: Brough Scott (Chairman), three times Sports Feature Writer of the Year, Racing Writer of the Year in 1977 and 2010, and the man behind the publication of the Xmas bestseller, Warrior: the Amazing Story of a Real War Horse; Marcus Armytage, racing writer at The Daily Telegraph and Grand National winning jockey; Simon Barnes, the award-winning chief sportswriter of The Times, who also writes two weekly columns on wildlife and is author of 20 books; Steve Dennis, a feature writer and weekly columnist for the Racing Post, who previously worked for Raceform, the Press Association, Pacemaker & Thoroughbred Breeder and the Daily Star ; Sean Magee, a versatile racing author and journalist who has collaborated with several leading racing personalities, including John Oaksey, Peter O’Sullevan and Lester Piggott; Lissa Oliver, a racing journalist for The Irish Field, International Thoroughbred and three Australian magazines, who is also the author of three novels; Stephen Wallis, Managing Director of Newmarket Racecourses since 2007 and previously Managing Director of Epsom Downs Racecourse; and Catherine Wills, DPhil art historian sister of Martin Wills, and a racehorse owner and breeder.

The Martin Wills Memorial Trust commemorates Martin Wills, an amateur jockey, point-to-point rider, racing enthusiast and journalist who died in April 1992, aged 39.

Enquiries to Charles Ponsonby on 01993 811 717 or send Charles an e-mail.