Wooden horse takes young jockey from Chandlers Ford to Cheltenham to win first pony race

Olivia has been able to take part in racing through an innovative training scheme run and funded by the Pony Racing Authority (PRA), as chief executive Clarissa Daly explained:  “We know there are children who have the talent to become jockeys, but need a helping hand to access the opportunities. Our 12-week youth training scheme, funded by the industry, is designed for children who cannot take part in pony racing because of financial or other circumstances. The scheme aims to get the children fit, skilled and ready to take part in a proper pony race. With Olivia having completed the scheme in 2015, and raced three times that year, it was clear that she has the commitment and ability to take her training further.”

As part of the PRA’s graduate scheme, Olivia has been travelling from her home in Hampshire to Banbury in north Oxfordshire every month for training with Julie and Patrick Scott at Apple Tree Stud, a Pony Club Centre.

According to Olivia, riding the Scotts’ pony Mouse to win at Cheltenham was a dream come true: “Mouse was so brave, he really tried. I knew that if I kept pushing he would keep going all the way to the line. Ruby Walsh is my favourite jockey and to win at Cheltenham where he has had so much success is a dream come true, I still can’t quite believe it actually happened!”

Olivia rides Mouse through the Cheltenham arch with her family to take top spot in the winners enclosure
Olivia rides Mouse through the Cheltenham arch with her family to take top spot in the winners enclosure

Olivia has the enthusiastic support of her family as her father Paul explained: “Because Olivia doesn’t have her own pony to practise on, I decided to design and build her one – quite a challenge for someone who has no carpentry skills! Olivia’s fitness training and work on her riding technique takes place on a wooden horse, named Troy after the legend of the Trojan horse – and also the 1979 Derby winner! Olivia and Troy have climbed the Cheltenham hill and passed the winning post in front of their rivals countless times over the past eighteen months but never dared imagine the dream would turn to reality!”

Praising the training scheme, he said: “Julie and Patrick Scott have been absolutely fantastic, encouraging all the young jockeys and sharing their knowledge with enormous enthusiasm. We’ve clocked up some miles making the two hour drive each way but it’s been absolutely worth it to see Olivia riding so well.”

Clarissa said: “It’s through the generous sponsorship of broadcast services company RaceTech that we’re able to offer these monthly gallops sessions and a chance for our YTS jockeys to race again. We want to keep the enthusiasm and desire going in these riders who have the talent to succeed, and give them a leg up into the horseracing industry.”

For now Olivia is back to riding Troy but hopes to ride in more pony races in the future. Her father Paul said: “Olivia’s only thirteen at the moment but would like to be a jockey when she’s older. She knows she’ll need a bit of luck and for doors to open to achieve her goal, but with Olivia’s levels of dedication and determination she’ll be well placed to grab any opportunity with both hands!”

Teenage jockey makes history by riding last pony race and winning first point-to-point race on same day

Pony racing and point-to-pointing are all in a day’s work for teenage jockey Ben Godfrey who made history by riding in a pony race before switching colours and winning his debut ride in the Hunt Members’ race at Seavington Hunt point-to-point on Sunday  (17 April 2016).

Sixteen-year-old Ben Godfrey had a rapid wardrobe change after taking second place on Calypso in the 148cm pony race and switching colours to win the opening Hunt Members race on Sobre Tresor, trained by Chloe Newman.

An experienced pony racer with ten wins under his belt, Ben became eligible to ride in point-to-points after turning sixteen in March. Having entered the Hunt Members’ race at Seavington, it meant the morning’s pony race would be his last, as his mother Sally explained:

“Ben’s loved his pony racing, which has kept him going all the way. He went up to the British Racing School in February for a two-day course which was fantastic and having the RaceTech Graduate Award has made a great difference in helping with costs of training and competing – he’s also done some riding out.  Having hunted with the Seavington last season, Ben’s really ready to go pointing now – even though he hasn’t been quite as ready to give up his pony to his little brother! “

Sally Godfrey added: “Having to make such a quick change after the pony race, meant Ben didn’t have time to worry about his next ride. Earlier, he had received help walking the course and guidance from Josh Newman, an ex pony racer, which helped to calm his nerves.  Ben’s main aim was to get round, and the horse is a lovely school master type, perfectly capable. Ben rode to orders and it couldn’t have gone better for him.”

Ben Godfrey riding Sobre Tresor in winning point-to-point debut at Seavington Hunt, Littlewindsor
Ben Godfrey riding Sobre Tresor in winning point-to-point debut at Seavington Hunt, Littlewindsor

Clarissa Daly from the Pony Racing Authority commented: “Pony racing is proving to be a very strong foundation for young people to enter the horse racing industry and we’re always looking for ways to give our young jockeys a helping hand. This special graduate award from RaceTech gives the best jockeys who are coming to the end of their point-to-point pony racing a significant financial boost to take up extra training and competition opportunities, and get ready to enter the adult world of racing.”

What are the next steps for Ben? Sally said: “We’re taking it a step at a time. Ben knows he needs to concentrate on his GCSEs and then, who knows what’s next?”