Michelle Payne, Belinda Stronach, PC, Juan Carlos Capelli, Georgina Bloomberg, and Reed Kessler. Ph. via Longines
Four exceptional personalities—Reed Kessler, Georgina Bloomberg, Michelle Payne and The Honourable Belinda Stronach, P.C.—were recognized during the Longines Ladies Awards at the gala dinner of the Pan American Conference presented by Longines. The event was held on the eve of the 142nd running of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, and they all received an elegant Longines timepiece from the hands of Juan-Carlos Capelli, Vice President of Longines and Head of International Marketing.
Held for the fifth consecutive year, the Longines Ladies Awards ceremony pays tribute to distinguished women whose careers have shown a positive influence and exceptional commitment to the equine cause. This international acknowledgement of the passion for horses, which is shared by both Longines and the prize winners, is determined by a jury featuring three leaders in the equestrian world: Louis Romanet, Chairman of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA); Ingmar de Vos, President of the International Equestrian Federation (FEI); and Nathalie Bélinguier, former President of the International Federation of Gentleman and Lady Riders (FEGENTRI).
“We are extremely honoured and excited to recognize the remarkable achievements and dedication of these exemplary women,” said Capelli on the choice of this year’s Longines Ladies Awards recipients. “The four of them are inspiring models for their extensive commitment to their favourite sports and also to helping others. It is this kind of elegance, the elegance of the heart, which we are deeply proud to celebrate tonight, along with the contribution of these women in equestrian sports.”
Longines’ passion for equestrian sports is a long-standing tradition. A chronograph produced in 1878 with the engraving of a jockey and horse was used to time performances on racecourses in New York three years later. Since then, Longines has been continuously timing performances at some of most famous racecourses and equestrian events in the world. The Swiss watchmaker is proud to be the Official Partner of both the IFHA and the FEI.
Truly a young prodigy, American rider Reed Kessler was the first to be introduced as a laureate of the 2017 Longines Ladies Awards. At only 18 years old, in her first year of eligibility in the senior Jumping ranks, she clinched the 2012 USEF National Jumping title. A few months later, Reed headed to London as the youngest equestrian athlete to compete at the Olympic Games. In early 2013, Reed achieved top results at the FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington (USA) and contributed to Team USA’s victory. She also competed at the FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final in Gothenburg (SWE) and represented the USA in the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping. At the culmination of a successful year, she received the Longines Rising Star Award, rewarding her great talent and commitment to her sport at the FEI Awards Gala. Ambitious and talented, Reed has given the following advice: “When you get consistent at something and you’re doing it well and it’s easy for you, it’s time to do something harder.” The hard-working show jumper continues to build her career and has given back to the equestrian community by sharing her own experience in the US Equestrian’s Learning Center project, which aims to provide educational content for fans and athletes. She enjoys a large fan base, bringing an extraordinary outreach to equestrian sports, and she is also an ambassador for JustWorld International, a charity supporting education and healthcare in developing countries.
Professional American rider Georgina Bloomberg was also a recipient at the prestigious 2017 Longines Ladies Awards. The youngest daughter of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg belongs to these personalities who use their celebrity to help others. She made her own way in the horse world as an award-winning professional Grand Prix show jumper, author and philanthropist. While earning numerous prizes, including gold medals at the North American Young Rider Championships, the Maxine Beard Award and several World Equestrian Festival Challenge Cups, she also got involved in the equestrian world as a humane activist, helping young riders, horse rescue organizations and therapeutic riding facilities. Her tireless commitment to animal welfare organizations and the hours spent at horse training follows in what she once said: “For me, it’s not about never falling – it’s getting up and riding again.” Georgina ardently works with the Humane Society of the United States, she recently joined the board of Animal Aid of the United States, and she served as a board member of the Equestrian Aid Foundation, which provides support to riders, trainers, grooms, farriers and other professionals for medical expenses.
In 2006, she founded her own charity, “The Rider’s Closet”, with the purpose of making riding clothes more accessible to those attending therapeutic riding schools. Her strong passion for equestrian sports led her to write a series of four books inspired by riding.
Australian jockey Michelle Payne also received the Longines Ladies Awards in 2017. Michelle inspired a nation and women all over the world when she won the Group 1 Emirates Melbourne Cup in 2015, making her the first woman to do so in the Cup’s 155-year history. Aboard 100-1 shot Prince Of Penzance, Michelle made a statement that would resonate with an entire generation: “Women can do anything, and we can beat the world.” Her honesty in victory will be the legacy of the determined and talented young jockey. Michelle began race riding as a 15-year-old girl, and nine years later she would combine with the legendary trainer Bart Cummings to win the David Jones Toorak Handicap at Caulfield Racecourse aboard Allez Wonder, which was her first Group 1 success. It would be the first of many, and during a stellar 2010-2011 season, Michelle rode Yosei to victory in three Group 1s: the Inglis Sires’ Produce Stakes on Derby Day at Royal Randwick Racecourse, the Schweppes Thousand Guineas at Caulfield, and the Sky Racing Tattersall’s Tiara at Eagle Farm Racecourse. Having gained national fame after her historical Melbourne Cup victory, Michelle took the opportunity to raise awareness about the difficulties encountered by women in a sports discipline dominated by men. Her career path hasn’t been without difficulties, as she suffered serious race falls and injuries, including brain trauma, broken vertebrae and damaged organs. She has overcome all setbacks, making a successful return to the saddle in 2016, this time holding a dual-trainer jockey license and becoming the first to train and ride a winner in Australia. As part of a big year, she assumed the role of Patron of the National Jockeys Trust to help fallen and injured jockeys, and she accepted the greatest sporting award in Australia, the Don Award, at the Sport Australia Hall of Fame awards in recognition of her achievements that inspired a whole nation.
The fourth 2017 Longines Ladies Award was presented to Canadian businesswoman, former cabinet minister and philanthropist The Honourable Belinda Stronach, P.C., who is also known in the horse racing industry as the Co-Founder, Chairman and President of The Stronach Group, an industry leader in world-class horse racing, entertainment and pari-mutuel wagering technology. In 2010, she resigned her position as Executive Vice-Chairman and board member at Magna International Inc., thus leaving behind the automotive business to focus on a different kind of horsepower. Her ambition is to modernize the sport of Thoroughbred racing and engage a new generation of fans by embracing technology and social media; creating innovative events such as the $16 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational, which is the world’s richest horse race; and by providing superior guest experiences at all of The Stronach Group properties. Having been recognized as one of the world’s most powerful women by the World Economic Forum, Fortune Magazine and TIME Magazine, to name a few, this visionary leader extended her influence to politics by serving as a Member of Parliament in the Canadian House of Commons from 2004 to 2008, holding such prominent cabinet positions as Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and Minister responsible for Democratic Renewal. While strongly committed to public life, she is equally committed to social change. In 2008, she founded The Belinda Stronach Foundation with the mission to develop socially innovative programs to tackle some of the world’s most pressing challenges, including malaria, education and the empowerment of girls and women. Stronach’s impressive life achievements have been honoured and recognized many times, including Canada’s “Top 40 Under 40” award, three honourary doctorates of laws (McMaster University in 2003, Brock University in 2009 and the University of Windsor in 2011), the Paul Harris Fellow Award (one of Rotary’s highest honours), and the Beth Shalom Humanitarian Award (one of Canada’s oldest and most distinguished awards). Says Stronach of her achievements: “I was once called a disruptor. I think that’s one of the best compliments I have ever received.”