British Racing School

The Newmarket racing schemes tapping into a new pool of diverse London talent

The head of the British Racing School is hopeful the industry can increase the number of Londoners in its ranks as a variety of inclusion schemes reach fruition.

The schemes, which involve over 40,000 young people educated at Harris Academies across the capital, have seen several people progress into working with racehorses, often from no previous experience.

Andrew Braithwaite, who took over the sport’s main training facility at the end of 2022, is keen to continue their work and says that it’s important to have a visible London presence in the sport to encourage involvement.

He said: “It’s only going to be a matter of time before it happens and that’s actually one of the most exciting and energizing things about it.

“Getting into the sport is really doable – it’s traditionally more the northern cities that produce people, a few working-class lads out of Liverpool have come into the sport and become jockeys.

“But there’s absolutely no reason why that can’t be a Londoner in the future, and whether that’s someone from an ethnic minority background or not, it’s there and it’s possible.”

There are a number of likely candidates which Braithwaite has identified too, with one young person from Peckham already looking the part.

He said: “There’s a couple of possibilities already here in Newmarket, working away, who ride really nicely and may go on to be jockeys.

“There’s a lad who came as part of the group from the Harris Academy of Peckham who went down to Epsom Racecourse for the week, he’s now on the scholarship program.

“He’d never seen a horse but he looked like that’s where he was supposed to be.

He’s just so natural and he’s got a lot of hard work ahead of him if he wants to be a jockey, but to see someone who’d never even considered it, get on the horse for the first time and look like he’s at home is great.

“We just need to give people like him the opportunity and, whether it’s him or someone else, they’ll grab it eventually.”

London’s racing representation was given a major boost back in 2019 when fellow Peckham youngster Khadijah Mellah became the first Muslim female jockey to win a competitive British horse race in the Goodwood Festival’s charity race, the Magnolia Cup.

Mellah began riding at the Ebony Horse Club in Brixton which aims to get young people working with ponies and, after a stint at the British Racing School, triumphed in the race at just 18, subsequently winning Sunday Times Young Sportswoman of the Year.

Her success has also inspired the Riding a Dream Academy which aims to support young people from diverse communities and underprivileged backgrounds get into racing.

They run residential weeks in conjunction with the British Racing School, aimed at exposing as many to the industry as possible.

Naomi Lawson, the academy’s co-founder, added: “A lot of people don’t think it’s for them and don’t see people who look like them, so it can be hard to break through.

“We’ve now got a number of students who are working in yards who have had good positive experiences, and this is one of the more tangible examples of the diversity and inclusion work going on in the industry that we’re really proud of.

“One person we had started out on a pony and he’s now cantering on a racehorse looking a million dollars and dreaming of becoming Frankie Dettori.

“I’d like to think that we would have someone from a diverse background who’s prominent in the sport easily within the next five years.”

Featured image credit: British Racing School

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