Sidesaddle Charity Flat Race

On Sunday, 25th October Wincanton Racecourse will stage the first ever Sidesaddle Charity Flat Race a British racecourse in celebration of the Somerset track’s two season association with the Southern Spinal Injuries Trust (SSIT) – held on the anniversary of The Charge of The Light Brigade.

The late October raceday is synonymous as a fundraising fixture, and this year’s event will make history with 11 lady jockeys elegantly dressed in the traditional sidesaddle attire of a bygone era, galloping one mile, two furlongs in a dash to the winning line. (See below for runners and rider details.)

The British actor, Martin Clunes (pictured), best known for portraying Martin Ellingham in the ITV series Doc Martin, will also be at Wincanton Racecourse in support of the charity sidesaddle race.

The Andy Stewart Charitable Foundation has generously sponsored the SSIT Sidesaddle Dash which is an adaptation of the Diana’s of the Chase Cup (DOC) – a two mile cross country sidesaddle contest that was reinvented two years ago and is now an annual event held in Leicestershire. The DOC race was originally held in Gillingham, Dorset (last recorded in 1924) so it is apt that it returns to its West Country roots.

The 11 lady jockeys taking part have a wealth of point-to-point, hunting and sidesaddle experience and include the successful point-to-point jockey Clare Gundry, sidesaddle devotee Philippa Holland and a number of female work riders. The ladies will race on appropriate thoroughbreds, largely ex-racehorses and will be led down to the start by the legendary Big Bucks ridden by Lucy Tucker.

Huw Williams, Wincanton Racecourse’s General Manager, said: “Last season, Wincanton’s Chairman Jo Hepburn successfully created a Charity Committee from which we have formed a wonderful partnership with the Southern Spinal Injuries Trust.

“I love the originality of this inaugural Sidesaddle Dash – the uniqueness of the race and its strong rural association really reflects all things Wincanton, and we very much hope the Dash is the first of many. I am sure that the day will raise a huge amount for the Southern Spinal Injuries Trust, which is such a worthwhile cause in the region.”

Sally Moger, Charity Manager at the Southern Spinal Injuries Trust, said: “Our partnership with Wincanton Racecourse is a fantastic way for us to help more people with spinal cord injuries. All the sidesaddle riders are fundraising for the charity, and donations can also be made at our website www.ssit.org.uk or at our Virgin Money Giving page. Our much-needed funds are used to provide grants that help injured people buy specialist equipment to make a real difference in their daily living.”

In addition to the race, SSIT will host a sold-out luncheon for 450 guests with an auction and silent auction open to racegoers. Gates open at 11am on Sunday, 25th October with the Dash scheduled to take place before the first official race at 1:25pm.

Advance tickets for the Sidesaddle Charity Flat Race Meeting start from £16 and are available online at www.wincantonracecourse.co.uk or by calling 0844 579 3014. Children aged 17 and under race free when accompanied by an adult.

Wincanton’s 2015 / 16 season starts on Friday, 16th October – Under Starter’s Orders.

About the Runners and Riders:

Amanda Soar (Leeds)

Amanda (28) has a rich background in all things equine from hunting, showjumping to team chasing After leaving school, Amanda worked in horseracing and is currently a work rider for Richard Whitaker. She also trains and rides point to pointers, and recently rode in a charity race at Doncaster. Amanda hunts regularly sidesaddle and won the Bedale Hunt Ride this year. She is looking to compete in the Melton, Golden Button and Diana’s of the Chase. Horse: Bkeen.

Aiofe Byrne (Norfolk)

Irish born, Aiofe Byrne(33) lives in Norfolk where she works as a veterinary surgeon at Chapelfield Equine Clinic specialising in stud work, internal medicine and ophthalmology. She has been riding sidesaddle for 20 years and frequently enjoys hunting in England and Ireland. Aiofe has been lucky enough to ride in two Diana of the Chase Cups and will be borrowing a thoroughbred for the SSIT Sidesaddle Dash.

Clare Gundry (Dorset)

Clare (32) has ridden over 130 winners point-to-pointing and under Rules. Four times leading lady point to point champion in Ireland where she represented the country in the 2009 Fegentri Series. Claire had ridden side saddle since a child and continues with a successful career as jockey / trainer.

Georgina Jellicoe (Taunton, Devon)

Georgina is a highly experienced rider with a French horse called Nil De Mee which ran under rules before coming over to the UK to point to point. The duo took part in a charity flat race – finishing close second. She continues to hunt with the Taunton Vale and has participated in the Golden Button Cross Country Race. Georgina currently works for Somerset-based trainer Johnny Farrell.

Lizzie Harris (Leicestershire-based)

Lizzie has ridden all her life and has won the Ingarsby (Diana’s of the Chase) sidesaddle Cross Country Race. She is also a keen point to point rider. Horse: Wild West formerly trained by Jonjo O’Neill with a successful career under rules ridden by champion jockey, AP McCoy in the infamous green and yellow striped silks of JP McManus. Lizzie has retrained him for sidesaddle and team chases.

Lucy Holland (Bicester, Oxon)

She has ridden sidesaddle for 13 years and hunts with the Bicester Pack. Lucy is a regular member of the sidesaddle chase team and has ridden in Golden Button twice. Her horse, Harry Up, is a former flat racehorse which now events, team chases, hunts and plays polo!

Philippa Holland (London / Dorset-based)

Philippa is the race organiser and has ridden in many renewals of Diana’s of the Chase Cup. Philippa hunts and team chases side saddle on a regular basis. She has ridden in many point to points and also rode in the charity Magnolia Cup at Glorious Goodwood on three occasions.

Rachael Harding (Gloucestershire-based)

Another rider with a history of all things equine! As a 16-year-old, Rachel was introduced to the art of sidesaddle and has competed in a number of Diana’s of The Chase Cups. She also rode at Cheltenham Festival in the 2013 charity flat race raising money for Cancer Research UK. Horse: Where’s The Boss, another former association with Jonjo O’Neill. Rachel has retrained him to sidesaddle and hunts regularly.

Sarah Jane Townend

For the last five seasons, Sarah has competed in many point-to-points and in a charity flat race at Doncaster. As work ridden for Mark Johnston, she has an abundance of race-riding skills and tactics! Sarah has hunted sidesaddle for eight seasons and competed in the 2014 Diana’s of the Chase Cup.

Susan Oakes (County Meade)

Susan broke the world record sidesaddle jump at almost six foot eight inches – not very relevant to Wincanton’s SSIT Sidesaddle Dash – but still highly impressive! She won the inaugural running of the Diana’s of the Chase Cup and lives and hunts sidesaddle in Ireland as continues to ride in point to points.

Tabby Prest

Tabby is a keen sidesaddle team chase rider and was second in last year’s Diana’s of the Chase Cup. OC Cup last year. She will ride former pointer – American Eagle.

About the Southern Spinal Injuries Trust:

The Southern Spinal Injuries Trust was established nearly 10 years ago and helps improve the lives, health and aspirations of people with spinal cord injury (SCI). The charity does this by providing specialist equipment and other support direct to people with SCI who live in the south and south west, the extensive region served by the Duke of Cornwall Spinal Treatment Centre at Salisbury District Hospital. To meet the requests for support that the charity receives, SSIT depends on charitable donations, grants and fundraising. More information at www.ssit.org.uk

Allison is the Publisher of Eclipse Magazine. She loves going to the Races and is learning to bet (despite being officially the worst bettor in the History of the Universe), there's a lot more to learn...

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