Gallop to Goodwood: The final countdown

    27 July 2016

    There are now just over 24 hours until I race at Goodwood. Am I nervous? Everyone asks me that, and yes, of course I am. I’ve been obsessively watching YouTube videos – the videos Goodwood has produced, videos of charity races, videos of my mount in ‘real’ races on the Racing Post website … any clip will do, to be honest. I rewind constantly and freeze it second-by-second to look at a jockey’s position, how the horses are spread out, how the horses set off at the beginning … anything at all that I hope might help me to look less like a numpty tomorrow (at 1.30pm, in case you were wondering).

    Until two weeks ago, nerves hadn’t yet taken hold. I think in my mind the fitness test was the thing to conquer; once I’d done that, the fitness regime and riding out on the gallops was all fun. Yes, even when my horse Sunny deposited me on the Epsom turf and headed for home. Those few weeks of bliss came to an abrupt halt, however, when Goodwood asked me to take part in the Press Launch for the Qatar Goodwood Festival. Being interviewed by racing journalists about my racing experience (erm, none) and where I felt sore (everywhere) reinforced the fact that this race was actually happening. If that wasn’t enough, then taking to the stage alongside racing legends Frankie Dettori and Hayley Turner (the Magnolia Cup’s ambassador) really made it hit home. Oh yes, and Frankie Dettori told me I was ‘mad’ for taking part. Great…

    Since then, the nerves have been jangling constantly. Later today I’ll be heading down to Goodwood, and there’s no going back from there! This morning I rode out in Epsom for the final time; and that’s it. The next time I’ll be on a horse will be sitting on Nellie at Goodwood racecourse, during one of the most famous events in the British flat racing calendar. Have I done enough preparation? With things like this I think you can prepare forever and never be ‘ready’ – but I’ve put in the effort. Hopefully it’s enough (and the horse decides she wants to run!). 

    Anyway, I’ve got one thing on my side. The race is raising money for two charities, Best Beginnings and World Vision, and as part of the fundraising, each jockey wears a silk created by female designers. Mine is a beautiful number by Beulah London, so if all else fails, at least my silks will look nice – even if my face does turn a funny shade of green above them. 

    The Magnolia Cup takes place at the Qatar Goodwood Festival this Thursday, 28 July at 1.25pm, and will be shown on Channel 4’s ‘At The Races’ shortly after.