£3,000 in prizes for young horse racing writing awards

The Wills Writing Awards, offering prizes amounting to more than £3,000 and the opportunity for young writers to lunch with Jilly Cooper, are now open for entries.

John Inverdale, second left, at the presentation of the 2013 Wills Writing Awards with the three winners
John Inverdale, second left, at the presentation of the 2013 Wills Writing Awards with the three winners

The Wills Writing Awards were launched in 1993 in memory of journalist and amateur jockey Martin Wills. An innovation for 2014 is that the winner of the under-26 category has the unique opportunity to have a “literary lunch” with Jilly Cooper, author of more than 40 books which have sold 12 million copies in the UK, and Brough Scott, the chairman of the awards judges.

“The Wills Awards hold a unique place in the racing industry and I don’t think you’ll find any other sport that offers such a brilliant opportunity to launch a journalistic career and get on the industry’s radar,” SJA member Scott said. “After 22 years they are still going strong with some of today’s top sporting journalists having graced our doors.”

The Wills Writing Awards are for creative writing (fact or fiction) with a horse racing 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.

Entrants are invited to submit a single article by February 28, 2014, via the “Entry Requirements” section of the Awards’ website Employees of the national and racing press, in a journalistic capacity, and previous winners in their category are ineligible. Entries are judged anonymously.

Particular importance will be attached by the judges to imagination, use of language and entertainment. Quality of writing is key; a detailed knowledge of horseracing is unnecessary. No previous experience of published or competitive writing is required. Entrants are advised to consult the FAQs and “Lines of Brilliance” segments in the Awards section of the website.

The maximum word counts for the articles are 1,200 (under-26s/19s) and 800 (under-15s).

The article must not be published prior to the announcement of the winners of the Awards. No correspondence will be entered into and the judges’ decision is final. Schools should not submit more than three entries per class.

The six prizes, for the winner and runner-up in each category, are £1,250/£750 (under-26s), £500/£250 (under-19s) and £250/£125 (under-15s). In addition, the winners will be published in the Racing Post and The Irish Field. The under-26 winner will have the opportunity of work experience at the Racing Post and the option to retain for a year a fine bronze of galloping horses by Cambridge-based sculptress Gill Wiles.

“These awards offer aspiring writers a real chance to show their talent, and over the years have unearthed several genuine gems,” said John Inverdale, who presented the prizes last year.

The award-winners will be announced and presented at Newmarket’s prestigious Craven Meeting on Wednesday April 16, 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 a leading Newmarket stables.

This year’s seven judges are: Brough Scott (chairman), three times the SJA’s Sports Feature Writer of the Year; Marcus Armytage, racing correspondent for The Daily Telegraph and Horse & Hound, and Grand National-winning jockey; Alastair Down, Racing Post journalist and three-time Horserace Writers’ & Photographers’ Association Racing Writer of the Year, most recently in 2012; Chris Garibaldi, Director of the National Horseracing Museum and supremo of the new Palace House National Heritage Centre for Horseracing and Sporting Art in Newmarket which will open in 2015; Nick Luck, Channel 4 racing presenter and five times Horserace Writers’ & Photographers’ Association Broadcaster of the Year, most recently in 2013; Sean Magee, a versatile journalist and author; and Catherine Wills, a leading authority on the eminent Victorian portrait painter Sir Francis Grant PRA and a racehorse owner and breeder.

The Martin Wills Memorial Trust is a UK-registered charity that commemorates Martin Wills, an amateur jockey, point-to-point rider and journalist, who died in April 1992, aged 39.

  • For further information, please contact Liz Ampairee on 0773 333 1945, or Charles Ponsonby on 01993 811717, or, in Ireland, Jack Cantillon on 08575 70103, and Andrew Kavanagh on 05997 73105,


Mon Mar 24: SJA British Sports Journalism Awards, Grand Connaught Rooms, London
Mon Apr 14: SJA Spring Golf Day: Croham Hurst GC, Surrey. Booking details to be announced