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04 October 2023

Caring for a donkey and working for a Grand National-winning team were part of Catherine Macrae’s journey to a Racing Post career, and she’s now determined to welcome others to what can appear as a daunting and complicated sport.

While big festivals and Group 1 events will always hold a certain allure, there was just as much joy to be found on the local pointing scene for a child eager to learn more about racing. It’s a great shame the fixture at Balcormo (Fife) has been cancelled, as there is only so much you can glean from TV and chances to actually witness racing in person, especially when young, is vital to forging lifelong fans. It’s a concept I’m thrilled to see championed by the Racing to School programme, which facilitates children’s essential first step towards the new and complex world of racing.

Representation and balance key to expansion

There are so many positive stories to be told but there’s still work to be done to increase diversity and inclusion within the sport. It’s hard not to notice that the number of women in yards is not reflected at a leadership level and the same gender imbalance is reflected in my own experience of the press rooms across the country.

Greater representation of people from BAME backgrounds and the LGBT+ community are also essential to making people feel welcome, safe and valued in racing, and Racing Together’s initiatives in those spheres are valuable in ensuring the sport is able to expand its fanbase.

Showcasing incredible people 

My first step towards racing began simply with a love of horses, beginning when I was very young and honed through a childhood spent in Pony Club. Riding was all I knew – I could sit on a horse long before I could walk and was lucky to learn how to care for animals first with a donkey, then a Shetland, before gradually working up to horses. 

Racing started as a foreign concept to me, a sport I liked the idea of but nothing more than Saturday afternoon TV entertainment, until I got my first experience of the industry through the very grassroots of racing.  

I’ve had brilliant opportunities to give back in small ways to the sport I love and tell stories of its incredible people. To be in the thick of the action at a major festival is every racing reporter’s dream, but through my time spent writing features I’ve also had fantastic opportunities to highlight all the effort behind-the-scenes and to stay involved – including riding out at another local yard at Nick Alexander’s for a feature on the daily life of stable staff. 

Nick Alexander Racing stables at Kinneston 16/8/22 GROSSICK PHOTOGRAPHY The Steadings Rockhallhead Collin DG1 4JW 07710461723 JOHN GROSSICK

In at the grassroots

A local staple of my area was the annual point-to-point fixture at Balcormo Mains, which also served as the site of my local Fife Hunt Pony Club. In exchange for free entry, I would help sell programmes in the parking lot, and once racing began I was able to sit trackside and soon fell in love with the excitement of the sport. 

This love was partnered by an enthusiasm for English at school, which meant I soon gravitated towards hopes of a career in journalism. I started as editor of my secondary school’s newspaper before studying English Literature and International Relations at Aberdeen University.

During that time, I honed my passion for writing and my ambition to work in the print industry, but I quickly began to miss a connection to horses and hatched a plan to try and combine my two interests. 

After graduation I looked for a job which would get me away from library walls and back to where I felt most comfortable around horses, and thankfully I had a Grand National-winning yard not far from my doorstep. 

I applied for a job at Lucinda Russell’s yard and took up a post as barn manager, and for a year immersed myself in the world of racing like I never had before. It was rewarding to be part of the brilliant team there who gave so much of their time, focus and love to the horses in their care. It gave me such a valuable understanding of the dedication of those in the industry and has served me well in my current job as a reporter for the Racing Post. 

Thriving community of support and kindness

I started as a trainee at the paper in 2021 after completing a postgraduate course in journalism. It was bittersweet to leave the yard after building connections not just with the staff there but also the incredible horses at the yard in that time, which included stable star One For Arthur.  Thankfully my new role means I haven’t had to leave those connections entirely behind, as I returned to the yard to report on Corach Rambler’s incredible Grand National heroics last season and it was an honour to write about a community of which I still feel part.

The team there was nothing but helpful to me in my new role, which is emblematic of the generosity that I have found from those in the sport. There is a thriving racing community and I have been met with nothing but support and kindness as I have found my feet as a journalist.

For my part, I aim to shine spotlights on those who can inspire others through their incredible achievements in racing. Getting to meet and tell the stories of figures like Charlotte Budd, the first woman to ride in the Grand National, jockey Michelle Payne, who has been a leading advocate for women in Australian racing, or this generation’s current stars has been nothing short of a privilege and I hope never to take it for granted.

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