If you’re reading this, congratulations! You made it to the end of 2021, a year which can safely be described as more undulating than Cheltenham itself. We’ve had our fair share of brilliant moments in amongst all the chaos, so it’s time to round off the year with the Annual Keejay’s – a set of awards decided entirely by yours truly (except for the ones that aren’t) – across a range of categories.
If you’re reading this then thank you very much for doing so, and I hope you have a wonderful new year and a great 2022.
This year’s awards are split between racing, other sports, media and then a couple of cultural awards. Thanks so much to Joe Citrone for uploading and to you all for reading.
Flat Horse of the Year: Plenty of contenders here in a year with so many top moments, but Baeed’s incredible progression was topped off in sensational style with a defeat of the outstanding miler Palace Pier and he’s a deserving winner of the award. He just gets the better of St Mark’s Basilica, whose differing performances in the Eclipse and Irish Champion Stakes were both top class.
Japanese star Loves Only You took three Group 1’s, including the remarkable double of the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf and Hong Kong Cup, a testament to the training ability of Yoshito Yahagi.
In the US, Knicks Go bookended his year with successes in the Pegasus Gold Cup and Breeders’ Cup Classic in a lucrative year, earning himself a likely Horse of the Year title in the USA.
Honourable mentions: Palace Pier (John Gosden), St Marks’s Basilica (Aidan O’Brien), Loves Only You (Yoshito Yahagi)
Jumps Horse of the Year: The irrepressible Honeysuckle takes this award despite the relative weakness of the 2 mile hurdling division. The style of her romps in the Irish Champion and Champion Hurdles – along with her super display in the Hatton’s Grace – play a big part in earning her the award over the unbeaten Shishkin, and another mare in Colreevy, who took the Mares’ Chase as a Novice before then stunning Monkfish and Envoi Allen on his final start.
Racing’s Unsung Heroes of the Year: Horses have such a great role to play in improving so many lives, and the work that Park Lane Stables do is essential. So they win the award along with the fundraisers who secured the future of the stable when it was put up for sale earlier this year!
Flat Race of the Year: No shortlist of contenders, but the toe to toe fight that Stradivarius and Spanish Mission had in the Lonsdale Cup was an absolute privilege to witness, especially if – like me – you were lucky enough to be there in person. The two stayers showed us everything good about Long Distance racing and that York duel beats the Commonwealth, Cup, QEII, and Irish Champion Stakes.
Honourable Mentions: Commonwealth Cup (Royal Ascot) QEII (British Champions Day), Irish Champion Stakes (Irish Champions Weekend)
Jumps Race of the Year: The Cheltenham Gold Cup is supposed to be the ultimate test of a staying chaser and this year’s renewal provide a gripping duel between Henry De Bromhead’s stablemates A Plus Tard and Minella Indo, with dual winner Al Boum Photo left behind. Hopefully all three can show their best this year for a rematch.
Sports – All other (non-racing)
Men’s footballer of the Year: Mo Salah was only seventh in the Ballon d’Or and wasn’t even on the shortlist for the 2021 Fifpro men’s world XI – a prize voted for by fellow professionals, no less – but his extraordinary year deserves recognition. His 37 goals in 52 games for Liverpool have come amongst an incredibly up and down year for the club but his game just keeps rising to new levels.
Honourable Mentions: Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich and Poland), Lionel Messi (Barcelona, PSG and Argentina), Karim Benzema (Real Madrid and France), Jorginho (Chelsea and Italy), Earling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund and Norway)
Women’s footballer of the Year: It’s hard to think of a more successful team in any sport than Barcelona and the phenomenal Alexia Putellas was at the heart of everything they did well. She can add this valuable acclaim (no cash prize) to the UEFA Women’s Player of the Year Award, the Women’s Ballon d’Or, and the FCF Best Women’s Player Award. A big shout to the many women’s players who had a fantastic Olympics, too.
Honourable Mentions: Vivianne Miedema (Arsenal), Sam Kerr and Pernille Harder (Chelsea), Wendie Renard (Lyon)
Men’s Cricketer of the Year: Joe Root’s sensational runscoring has to be hugely respected – In the 15 Tests he played in 2021, Root scored 1708 runs with six hundreds; the other England batters collectively scored 4,396 runs and were dismissed 242 times, with only one hundred between them.
England’s other outstanding player was James Anderson, who has proven ageless once again, whilst Jos Buttler had a fine T20 year.
New Zealand had a wonderful year which included ICC Test Championship Glory, and Kane Williamson played a fine role in the final itself whilst he helped the Black Caps reach the World T20 Final, whilst Mohammad Rizwan and Shaheen Afridi excelled for Pakistan. India had a fine red ball year, and KL Rahul, Jaspit Bumrah, Moahmmed Shami and Ravi Ashwin can all be credit whilst Marnus Labuschagne became the Number 1 ranked test batsman in the Ashes.
Honourable Mentions: James Anderson (England), Jos Buttler (England), Mohammad Rizwan and Shaheen Afridi (Pakistan), and KL Rahul, Jaspit Bumrah, Moahmmed Shami and Ravi Ashwin (India), and Marnus Labuschagne (Australia)
Women’s Cricketer of the year: An England double here as Tammy Beaumont’s brilliant batting (872 runs in 21 internationals at an average of 48.44 with one century and eight half-centuries) just sees her beat Lizelle Lee (864 runs in 19 internationals at an average of 57.6 with one century and seven half-centuries), Ireland’s Gaby Lewis and the Indian phenomenon that is Shafali Verma, a 17 year old who has played the game professionally since the age of 15 and scored a 50 on her maiden test appearance.
Men’s Cyclist of the Year: Extremely hard to pick between Tadej Pogacar and Primoz Roglic, with Pogacar’s monument victories at Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Il Lombardia earning him the verdict over Roglic. World road race Champion Julian Alaphilippe and Tour de France comeback king Mark Cavendish were amongst a number of contenders who could easily have been given the award, including Olympic gold medallist Richard Carapaz, the all-round superstar Mathieu Van Der Poel and the tank that is Filippo Ganna.
Honourable Mentions: Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma), Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick Step), Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck – Quick Step), Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck – Quick Step), Richard Carapaz (Ineos), Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix), Filippo Ganna (Ineos), Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck – Quick Step)
Women’s Cyclist of the Year: Movistar’s Annemiek van Vleuten was the main victim of Dutch overconfidence at the Olympic road race but she bounced back with a stunning time trial victory, was a dominant winner of the Ronde van Vlaanderen whilst also landing San Sebastian to boot. She just gets the better of Demi Vollering – who could dominate the scene for a long time now Anna Van der Breggen is retired.
Honourable Mentions: Lizzie Deignan, Annemiek van Vleuten, Elisa Longo Borghini, Lisa Brennauer, Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig
Men’s Rugby player of the Year: In a year with several outstanding performances, Antoine Dupont stood out at scrum-half. The French livewire helped Toulouse to a Top 14 and Champions Cup double whist also shining on the world stage for a France side which ended their year with victory over the All Blacks. He just beats a number of Springbok and All Black players to the punch, with a special mention for Siya Kolisi, who played an integral part to the success of a Springbok team that already has it’s place in the history books.
Honourable Mentions: Maro Itoje (England), Aaron Smith (New Zealand), Peter O’Mahony (Ireland) Romain Ntamack, Gregory Alldritt, Sam Simmonds
Women’s Rugby player of the Year: Zoe Aldcroft started all of England’s eight matches this year and played an essential part as the Red Rose won another Grand Slam and then beat New Zealand twice. An omnipresent figure across the pitch, she beats team-mate Poppy Cleall to the award whilst watching the French pair of Laure Sansus and France winger Caroline Boujard, whilst Italy wing Manuela Furlan also earns a mention.
Honourable Mentions: Poppy Cleall (England), Laure Sansus, Caroline Boujard (France) Manuela Furlan (Italy)
Racing Broadcaster of the Year: Another win for Lydia Hislop, who’s Road To Cheltenham series feels well established as the most in depth programme in racing – and arguably the most loved in the sport. Hislop’s brilliant interviewing has also been matched by great writing, including a couple of pieces for the Tortoise website which are well worth reading. Fran Berry, Hayley Moore, Adele Mulrennan and Nick Luck all had very strong years.
Honourable Mentions: Nick Luck (RTV/NBC), Ruby Walsh (RTV/ITV), Rishi Persad (RTV/ITV), Jamie Lynch (Sky Sports Racing), Hayley Moore (Sky Sports Racing)
Men’s Football writer of the Year: Carl Anka retains his title after a tumultuous year covering England, Manchester United, and releasing a book co-written with Marcus Rashford to boot.
Honourable Mentions: Johnathan Wilson and Sid Lowe (Guardian), Chloe Beresford (Tortoise), Philippe Auclair (various), Amy Lawrence (Athletic), Oliver Kay (Times)
Women’s Football writer of the Year: A joint winner here, as Katie Whyatt (The Athletic) and Suzy Wrack (Guardian have both provided hugely in-depth coverage of the women’s game. The pair are amongst a number of writers to follow next year, with the European Championships on the horizon!
Tactical analyst of the Year: Jasmine Baba’s in depth knowledge of German football has been exceptionally handy this year and will be worth having onside in 2022. A must read!
Media – Producers
TV Producer of the Year: It’s been another year of political turmoil in British politics and Sky News’ has been across a huge amount of it, providing much needed detail and context. That wouldn’t happen without Mollie Malone, their politics producer. Mollie also earns bonus points for being a selective tweeter, showing discipline far beyond the years of yours truly.
Honourable Mentions: Sam McAlister (Newsnight), George Coote (Sky news), Jack Fenwick (Westminster Hour, Politics Live)
Radio Producer of the Year: Another win for the omnipresent Susanne Courtney of 5 Live in a year when talk radio kept on growing.
Podcast Producer of the Year: A joint verdict between for Pabst Blue Musk of LEFT/OVER pod and Trashfuture’s Nate Bethea, both of whom have put heart and soul into two of the best podcasts anyone can listen to.
Honourable mentions: Adam Bowie, Will Jones, Jon Moonie & Paul Scoins (The Cycling Podcast), Elizabeth Cassin and Axel Kacoutié (Today in Focus, Guardian)
Media – Editors and Analysts
Editor of The Year: Moya Lothian-McLean has had a brilliant year as gal-dem’s politics editor, and her no nonsense analysis makes her a deserving winner of the award. Roula Khalaf’s FT has had a brilliant year and deserved a big hand, whilst Hugh Pym and Fergus Walsh have once again provided tons of accessible COVID coverage. On the media front, Jim Waterson has once again provided many fascinating stories and some big scoops to go with it.
Honourable Mentions: Roula Khalaf (FT), Hugh Pym and Fergus Walsh (BBC), Jim Waterson (Guardian)
Correspondent of the Year: Lewis Goodall has been tireless in covering current affairs and giving vital context and depth to the most important issues of the year for Newsnight. An essential presence in anyone’s media diet. Nadine White’s work on race in this country makes her an essential follow-on social media for anyone looking to expand their horizons.
Honourable Mentions: Nadine White (Independent), Lizzie Dearden (Independent/I) Arj Singh (HuffPost)
Think Tank of the Year: The Institute for Government’s work has never been more needed and Bronwen Maddox’s team of experts didn’t miss a beat all year. One suspects they’ll be having a busy 2022 as well, given who’s in charge.
Honourable Mentions: Resolution Foundation, Centre for European Studies, European Policy Centre
TV Show of the Year: We have been blessed with exceptional TV all year long but the sheer drama, acting and aesthetics of Succession’s third season were unmatchable and it’s a deserving award winner. Netflix’s Squid Game was an enthralling if sickening (and emotionally gut-wrenching watch), It’s A Sin brought me and everyone else to watched it to tears, whilst it’s always a shock to the system to remember that Line of Duty and Vigil were *this year.* Here’s to seeing more of those next year, and soon.
Honourable Mentions: Vigil, Line of Duty, WandaVision, Mare of Easttown, Ted Lasso, Sex Education
Movie of the Year: Was I ever going to say anything but No Time To Die? Daniel Craig’s last outing as Bond had everything and the next actor to play 007 will be filling the biggest shoes in cinema. Dune’s cinematics earn it the runner up spot but this was a one horse race for me.
Best Album of 2021: A lot of fine albums were released this year but Dave’s ‘We’re All Alone In This Together’ was a sensational work with depth, fire, and some hard hitting lessons which deservedly took number one in style, achieving the biggest launch of 2021 at the time when released in late July.
If you made it this far, I’d like to say two things.
Firstly, thank you so much for reading – and for all your support this year!
Secondly, if I made a glaring omission – and that includes you – then please do accept my apologies!
Happy New Year,
Views of authors do not necessarily represent views of Star Sports Bookmakers.