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27 September 2021

A familiar sight on Sky Sports Racing’s coverage of the Racing League and a presenter at Ascot and Goodwood, former Vogue model Rosie Tapner speaks about her initial concerns over racing and how the sport stole her heart through a blossoming love of riding and her ex-racehorse.

If I am totally honest, I had in the back of my mind that racing was cruel and that the horses weren’t looked after properly; that mindset changed as soon as I set foot in Charlie Hills’s yard for my first day. Talking of my first day, I have never been more nervous in my life, getting on a three-year-old racehorse and heading straight up the gallops with 30 others was way out of my comfort zone. No matter how much riding experience I had, this was like learning to ride a totally different animal.

I actually didn’t enjoy riding out for the first month because I just wasn’t strong enough and I didn’t have the right technique, however one day I whacked up my stirrups pretended to myself that I was as good as Frankie Dettori, pulled myself together and I absolutely LOVED it!! 

Country roots took me full circle

Growing up there were always horses around, I started riding the moment I was able to hold myself up, so probably aged two or three! I grew up hacking, eventing, hunting and part of the Pony Club, but I had never set foot in the world of racing.

As for my background, I was scouted when I was 15 and started modelling about a week later. I made it to the top of the game but didn’t enjoy one bit of it. I’m a country girl at heart and that is all I have ever cared about. My profile from modelling led to my being asked to take part in The Magnolia Cup at Goodwood in 2018 – the charity race restricted to female riders. I absolutely jumped at this offer and couldn’t wait to get started. 

Once I was hooked, I was getting up at 4am four days a week to drive just under two hours to get to the yard and I’ve now ridden 106 different racehorses and completed three charity races. Racing has completely changed my life, not only has it given me my dream job of being a presenter and welcomed me with open arms, but I actually bought the racehorse that I rode in my first charity race. My lovely ex-racer, Andy, is now at home with me. I’ve retrained him to be a happy hacker, dressage horse and potentially for jumping in the future.

Loving care shines through

For me, racing is one of those sports which seems really complicated on the outside when you have no idea about it, and it also seems very elitist which in some ways it is. But I would say to anyone out there: go to a yard, go to the races, immerse yourself in this fantastic sport – there is nothing like a day at the races and most of all, there is nothing more special than seeing the bond between horse and rider, and racing groom. There wouldn’t be racing without the love, care and trust between horse and human, and I feel incredibly lucky to be able to ride out still, go to the races as a presenter and own my very own ex-racehorse.

A League apart, hopefully not

This year I was given the chance to be involved with the new concept, the Racing League. I was team manager for Team Swish and I presented on Sky Sports Racing at three of the six meetings. There has been a lot of positive and negative chat about Racing League, but my personal view is that if you were involved with it and enjoyed the experience it was brilliant. I interviewed 12 university students who knew nothing about racing, but had turned up for a fun evening, picked a team colour out of a hat and competed against each other all night. They loved their night and said they would continue to follow the sport. This was the biggest sign for me that Racing League was succeeding in getting new people into racing.

Nothing new is ever going to please everyone straight away, or be completely perfect straight away, but that’s where the saying comes in: ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’ and I’m really looking forward to next year. I believe this has some legs to grow! 

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