One of the highlights of Glorious Goodwood is Ladies’ Day, celebrated on the Thursday of raceweek each year. Celebrating all things female and raising serious sums of money for women’s charities, Goodwood launched the all-female, amateur horse race, the Magnolia Cup, in 2011.
Twelve ladies, selected for their outstanding achievements, but for whom race riding is not a regular occurrence, were each lent a horse and taught to race ride by a top trainer. Each rider must pass British Horseracing Authority assessment before being permitted to ride in the race, run in front of the big Ladies’ Day crowd at Goodwood.
Fundraising for Charity
The Magnolia Cup’s key objective is to raise as much money as possible for female-focused charities and, in doing so, help raise their profile. In previous years, the welcome sums raised through this initiative have been donated to charities such as Great Ormond Street Hospital, Winston’s Wish, the Haven Breast Cancer Support, Spinal Research and Best Beginnings.
Through a mixture of sponsorship, tickets sales from the Regency Ball, held in Goodwood House, private donations and betting initiatives, the Magnolia Cup raised over £1 million for charity during its first five years.
By far and away, the biggest and most important contribution comes from the women themselves and their sponsors.
Since 2011 many famous and successful women from the worlds of business, sport, fashion, music, and media have taken part in the race including COO of the Bank of England Charlotte Hogg, CEO of TalkTalk Dido Harding, BBC South weather presenter and senior broadcast journalist Alexis Green, milliner Emily Baxendale, and model Edie Campbell.
In 2016 Hayley Turner, the most successful female jockey in British racing history, became ambassador for the Magnolia Cup. Turner, who retired at the end of the 2015 season, provided the riders with guidance and support along their journey to ride in the charity race. With her own experiences of winning one of Britain’s most valuable mile handicaps during the Qatar Goodwood Festival, the Betfred Mile on Boom and Bust in 2011, she was able to give the jockeys confidence ahead of the contest.
She said: “There can be no greater thrill than riding at the Qatar Goodwood Festival. Goodwood is one of the most unique and beautiful racecourses in the world.”
The brave amateur jockeys train tirelessly for months leading up to the race, undertaking everything from early morning riding sessions to intensive fitness programmes and jockey training classes. Some of the Magnolia Cup riders have been followed by Goodwood’s cameras and the resulting films provide an insight into the incredible efforts that they have been putting in to ride in the race. From the early mornings on the gallops, to the gruelling assessment days at the British Racing School, the films give light to their remarkable journeys. The films can be viewed at www.goodwood.com/magnoliacup.
In 2019 Irish DJ and Model Vogue Williams, and former Apprentice star Luisa Zissman, took part in a rigorous day of fitness and race riding challenges in preparation for the race that year.
Vogue Williams, who passed with flying colours, commented: “My legs are like jelly after this morning, riding horses challenges a completely different set of muscle groups, which is very difficult to train for in a gym.”
“My first taste of riding came at 11 years of age, but I’ve hardly done any since. Under the guidance of racehorse trainer, Jim Boyle, my confidence has developed, Jim has taught me a lot with regards to control and pace. Every time I passed a horse on the gallops going too fast, the girls charged me a tenner as a joke, so I learnt very quickly with regards to the required control and balance.”
She added: “The whole Magnolia Cup journey has been completely exhilarating, it’s epic, and I’ve definitely caught the racing bug.”
English retail entrepreneur and runner up of The Apprentice, Luisa Zissman commented: “I felt the pressure today, but all the ladies taking part are so supportive of one another, and it has certainly spurred me on. The whole experience to date has involved a huge amount of commitment, and although we are only half way, I’m hugely competitive and will be looking to win.”
“Aside from the race itself, it is inspirational to be working with the charity, Wellbeing of Women, who do some amazing research. I’m hosting a fundraising event for them in the coming weeks too; it’s so refreshing to know that all our hard work is for such a great cause.”
Having passed the assessment previously, gold medal-winning Olympian, Victoria Pendleton and British fashion model, Rosie Tapner were on hand to encourage their fellow riders through the test.
Victoria Pendleton commented: “Having the honour of riding at Goodwood is a truly unique experience. I am very fortunate to the ridden competitively in the past and if there was one piece of advice I could give the ladies beforehand, it is to enjoy the race and savour every second.”
Rosie Tapner spoke fondly of her experience in the race last year: “Nothing compares to the atmosphere of riding in a race at Goodwood, it really is one of the most beautiful racecourses in the country.
“I jumped at the chance to ride in the race again this year; horseracing is a real passion of mine and one I can combine with the fashion. With the line-up of ladies looking incredibly strong, I will be keeping my head down and training hard.”
In addition to the jockeys, a collection of the most celebrated and prestigious female fashion designers dedicate their time and skills to creating bespoke silks for each of the riders. Since 2011, these designers – who not only produce the eye-catching silks, but actively support the campaign in the press and media before and after the event – have included Vivienne Westwood, Kate Moss, Issa, Amanda Wakeley, Jasmine Guinness and Mary Katrantzou.
Supermodel and face of Burberry, Edie Campbell (pictured above), won the inaugural event sporting silks designed by Jasmine Guinness. She competed again in 2012, though jewellery designer Philippa Holland won the thrilling second edition of the charity event.
Holland, wearing Katie Grand silks, gained a double when capturing the third running of the Magnolia Cup from eight rivals in 2013 when Campbell took a break.
In 2014 Edie Campbell, who partnered the Ian Williams-trained See The Storm, was again victorious – and received her prize from Hollywood heart-throb Tom Cruise.
Campbell, 2014’s Goodwood race ambassador, had won The Magnolia Cup in 2011 and been fourth in 2012 – she and the other eight who took part were raising money for The Reading Agency, which is dedicated to aiding reading and literacy skills, and Best Beginnings, which breaks down inequalities in child health.
See The Storm won pulling clear, and model Campbell said: “Moving the finishing post [forward half a furlong to give riders more time to pull up] definitely helped and gave us more time – and if there hadn’t been a rail at the end of the pull-up I would have been in the next county!
“I’ve been riding out at Ian Williams for a couple of months and I was so grateful to him and the horse’s owners for allowing me to ride. I watched a recording of him [See The Storm] at Ascot and that gave me confidence knowing he wanted to win. I was more nervous than ever this year, because you know it’s frightening and scary, and you put a lot of work in to get here.
“Raising money for The Reading Agency means a lot – it’s one of my favourite charities.”
The supermodel, who has ridden since the age of five, was crowned Model of the Year at the British Fashion Awards in December, 2013. The 23-year-old has headlined a host of major catwalk shows, including Burberry, Saint Laurent and Louis Vuitton. As well as winning the inaugural Magnolia Cup, she rode in the Gucci Masters show jumping tournament in Paris in December.
Winning trainer Williams said: “Edie’s put a lot of hard work and many early mornings into it. She was in every time she was due to ride first lot and has really put in a lot of effort. He ran so well in the ladies’ race at Ascot on Saturday and it seemed perfect to come here.”
In 2019 the race made history, when Khadijah Mellah – a member of Ebony Horse Club – became the first British Muslim woman to ride in and win a horserace in the UK, just three months after first sitting on a racehorse and against competitors including Olympian Victoria Pendleton.
Looking back on her inspiring achievement which made global headlines, Khadijah, from Peckham, South London said: “Winning the Magnolia Cup at the Qatar Goodwood Festival was a whirlwind experience and something that has changed my life immensely.”
Khadijah’s victory made history and changed the perceptions of young women in her community. She said: “I know for sure that I have broken some perceptions of a young Muslim woman and it is something that I am proud of and will continue to do. Me being Muslim isn’t just it. It is important that people realise that being a certain religion or from a certain background doesn’t determine your interests and the person you are, and it certainly doesn’t determine how good you are. For me it is so important to be able to spread the message that you can be successful despite your background.”
Khadijah hopes that her story and positive experience within the sport will see a shift in horseracing. Speaking on this she said: “When I was younger, I didn’t think that getting into racing would be an option for me or someone of my background. There was no one that looked like me. I hope now that I have joined the racing industry and I have been a success story that young people like me will also see there is an opportunity for them to join that racing community.”
Her story from learning to ride, to winning the race, was made into a documentary, Riding A Dream, which was announced as the Best British Short Film at the prestigious British Documentary Film Festival. The film was directed and filmed by filmmakers Tom Bolwell and Mattia Reiniger and produced by Oli and Phil Bell. It was supported by Great British Racing; Goodwood Racecourse and The Racing Foundation. Khadijah completed much of her training at the British Racing School and was supported by trainer Charlie Fellowes on whose horse, Haverland, she won the 2019 Magnolia Cup.
Khadijah is determined to use her experience to inspire other young people. She said, “At the time, I was looking up to role models to help inspire me and get me through the gruelling training. So it was incredible to then receive messages from young women and girls in particular, saying that I had inspired them to do something out of their comfort zone. It is so important to me to encourage people to be determined and pursue a sport to a higher level despite what other people may think. My hope is that my experiences will encourage more people to get involved in racing.”
Following her remarkable achievement in 2019, Khadijah was named The Sunday Times Young Sportswoman of the Year and she became an ambassador for Great British Racing.
Photo credit: Great British Racing/Riding a Dream
Karen can usually be found glued to her computer or at the stables. Having edited several national magazines she co-founded Eclipse Magazine in 2008 after realising that many of her friends were nervous about going racing due to lack of information – what to wear, how to bet etc.
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