Diversity in Racing

Features | 22nd July 2022

As racing becomes more diverse it’s never been easier to forge a career in the sport without having
any background in it

Here’s a look at a few of the people who have made an impact and how they came to be working in racing…

Khadijah Mellah

When Khadijah Mellah won the Magnolia Cup she broke new ground in racing. In landing the all-female charity race staged at the Qatar Goodwood Festival, she became the first British Muslim woman to ride in, and win, a horserace. The then teenager, who learned to ride at the Ebony Horse Club at Brixton, had been followed in her training by a camera crew filming the award-winning documentary Riding The Dream. She is now inspiring a whole new generation of talented young jockeys from underrepresented communities and diverse backgrounds through The Riding A Dream Academy

Cathy Gannon

The path to becoming Ireland’s first female champion apprentice jockey had a rather unorthodox start for Cathy Gannon.
Her early experience of horses was restricted to riding ponies bareback on the streets of Donaghmede, north Dublin, where she grew up.

It wasn’t until starting at the Racing Academy and Centre of Education (RACE) as a 15-year-old that she first rode with a saddle.
Cathy, the daughter of a Dublin taxi driver, became renowned as one of the strongest and bravest jockeys during her career. She rode a total of 440 winners and enjoyed her finest hour when winning the Group 3 Round Tower Stakes on Dingle View.

Despite suffering a string of falls she came back to race riding after the birth of her son, Aaron, before a serious foot injury, sustained in stalls accident, finally ended her career in 2016.

Mick Appleby 

The dozens of pictures on Mick Appleby’s office wall show how successful he’s been since starting training. It could have been so different as his first job after leaving school was making the frames for those photographs at a factory near his childhood home near Barnsley. 

His interest in racing was limited to trips to Doncaster and Pontefract with his grandad and trying to pick winners of the TV races. Small enough to be a jockey, he answered an advert for stable staff in the Horse And Hound. 

He ended up at Jane Pilkington’s stables at Stow-on-the-Wold, where he learned to ride on Cheltenham Festival legend Willie Wumpkins. It was the start of the journey to becoming six-times champion all-weather trainer and one of the shrewdest operators on the Flat.

Richard Kingscote 

This year’s Derby-winning rider Richard Kingscote is not your stereotypical jockey. 

His tattoos and love of fast motorbikes is a nod to a man with no background in racing. As a child growing up near the Somerset seaside town of Weston-Super-Mare his only real knowledge of the sport was watching the Grand National on TV. 

A love of horses was fostered by a summer holiday job helping with pony rides on Brean Sands near his home. Being small as a teenager, he was encouraged to head to the British Racing School. It lead to Classic success on Desert Crown at Epsom this year and a place in the premier league of Flat jockeys.

Martin Dwyer 

Another Derby-winning jockey, Martin Dwyer, insists his only significant experience of racing growing up in Liverpool was when his dad’s bike was stolen from outside the local betting shop. 

His first taste of riding came on a pony belonging to his friend’s sister kept near the pitches where he used to play football. He didn’t even bother to change his football boots. He didn’t learn to ride properly until he was 15-years-old before heading south to join Ian Balding’s Berkshire Stables to become an apprentice jockey. 

His finest hour came when conjuring a storming-late run out of Sir Percy to win the 2006 Derby. More recently he claimed Group 1 success last year when Pyledriver, jointly-trained by his father-in-law William Muir, won the Coronation Cup at Epsom

Check out racing near you at the #EveryonesTurf website here