From a secret passion to a working life filling column inches and broadcasting slots, Racing Together subcommittee member, Maddy Playle wants to keep telling stories that inspire others.
I first became interested in racing when I was a lazy teenager. My mother set the television in my bedroom on a timer in an attempt to wake me up on weekends so I wouldn’t spend the whole morning in bed.
Her plan didn’t come off but it did mean I would wake up to the Morning Line on Channel 4, and as an animal lover who was unfamiliar with horse racing, I was intrigued. From then on, I spent my Saturday mornings with Nick Luck, John Francome, Jim McGrath and co, and would increasingly watch the racing in the afternoons.
When I was a child I was always warned not to go into a bookmakers and didn’t know anyone who was interested in the sport, so initially I was embarrassed about being interested in horseracing to the point where I kept my passion a secret from friends and classmates.
Finding a voice on social media
Therefore, Twitter soon became a community where I could share my thoughts and feelings and I forged some connections and friendships I still have today. I recently wrote about the concept of fan engagement and I think there is potential for racing to make giant strides in this sphere.
When I was around 15 I was approached to write for Channel 4’s website, which was an incredible opportunity for someone so young, and I soon became bitten by the proverbial bug.
I remember taking time out of school during my A Levels to go to the Cheltenham Festival and I was soon itching to finish my education and enter the world of work. I spent much of my spare time playing horseracing games, studying pedigrees and watching old race replays on YouTube.
It was a good job because I didn’t get the grades I needed to get on an ambitious university course – there was only one I truly entertained doing – and after stints doing work experience at the Racing Post and Great British Racing, I joined the newspaper full time as an intern in 2017.
Doors began to open
I was very lucky to be given a succession of opportunities as a teenager which allowed me into the world of racing. I was always made to feel incredibly welcome at the Racing Post and while the intervening years have brought with them many challenges – I received plenty of public criticism in the early days and imposter syndrome still rears its head from time to time – overall I am fortunate to work in an industry I love.
I began broadcasting when I was asked to present the Racing Postcast shortly after I joined the company and now I have a really varied role which involves racecourse reporting, writing feature interviews, tipping for the Weekender, speaking to some of racing’s most engaging faces with my YouTube series Maddy Meets and sitting alongside some of my esteemed colleagues for our new show The Front Page and much more.
The better the welcome, the brighter the future
Racing’s challenge to attract a new, younger audience is something of a buzzword these days and although there wasn’t a formal pathway for me into the sport, there are various options depending on what you want to do.
For instance, there is the nine-week foundation course at the British Racing School if you have aspirations of becoming a jockey, or the BHA development programme is now not confined to university graduates if you are interested in a less practical role.
For me, the great thing about being a journalist is being able to tell people’s stories and shine a light on some of the sport’s biggest issues. For example, Khadijah Mellah’s groundbreaking success in the 2019 Magnolia Cup at Glorious Goodwood showcased how broad racing’s appeal can be. In my mind, the more inclusive and welcoming a sport we have, the brighter its future, and there is certainly more work to be done in this regard.
I am a huge supporter of Racing Together’s numerous initiatives and community engagement projects. Success often comes from the grassroots and their work with Racing to School, Women in Racing, Diversity in Racing and Autism in Racing continues to bear very important fruit.