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10 June 2024

Riding for their lives

This Saturday (15th June) sees 12 amateur jockeys take part in the 2024 Macmillan Ride of their Lives at York Racecourse. One of those riding is Charlotte Russell, General Manager of Go Racing in Yorkshire, and this is what she had to say ahead of the race.

‘The excitement is building, the preparation continues daily and I am having the time of my life – I don’t want it to end!

Collectively we’ve raised over £150,000 at the time of writing for Macmillan and I know there’s more to add.  It really is a huge amount.  Personally, I have been humbled by the generosity of people.  My own target was surpassed ages ago and I’ve raised more than three times as much as I committed to.  I just can’t believe it and I can’t thank those who have donated and attended events enough.

I’m riding in memory of my godmother Sheena, who we sadly lost to cancer last year.  She had fought it bravely and beaten it once, but it was very aggressive on its return.

Sheena was a very knowledgeable horse woman, who had worked in the industry and loved the bloodstock side.  In 2011 we travelled to the Melbourne Cup together in Australia, we attended Cheltenham for her 60th birthday celebrations and not long before she died both of her point-to-pointers won at their local meeting.  She would be so proud of me for taking on this challenge and she loved a party!

Sheena would have thoroughly approved of my big fundraising event that took place earlier this month.  We had a ‘Party In The Barn’ on my parents farm.  Two weeks earlier it had been full of 400 ewes all giving birth, but you would never have known on the night after the hard work of my parents, husband and the very supportive Malton Marquees, who transformed the old shed.

We roasted a pig and a lamb, my best friend made 300 chocolate brownies for all the guests and we had two bands on stage – the shed was rocking!

Sadly, one of our original riders, Adam has had to drop out of the race due to ill health so at the beginning of April, our reserve, Lucy Ireland was drafted into the fold.  She has done an amazing job to get ready for the race in such a short amount of time and to fundraise.  We both sourced raffle and auction prizes and shared this element of the party and in total we raised over £7,000!

We’re still working hard at the gym on the fitness side of things and having weekly jockey training with Russ Garrity.  Everyone is still incredibly supportive of each other, but the atmosphere is getting more competitive!

When we started it was wet and cold but riding out in more clement temperatures has been rather nice!  With a couple of bank holidays over Easter and in May I was able to fit in more lots and took some time to reflect on how far we have all come.  When I first went to ride out at Paul Midgley’s at the end of December, I nearly wobbled off my second horse because I was so unfit!  On Easter Monday I rode six lots!

It’s been so exciting to watch the horses that we ride run too.  Earlier this year, my husband asked me if I’d ever ridden Herakles (Paul Midgley’s) because he had just won and I proudly replied “No, but I took him off the walker on Tuesday!”

When Latin Five won, three days after we’d done a gallop up the hill I was beside myself and thought I was going to burst.  To be clear, I know his win had nothing to do with me, he was given a superb ride by Ryan Sexton, but that feeling of involvement and being able to share in the elation with the other members of the team was very special.  The family WhatsApp group was bombarded with messages, a video went straight onto Facebook and my thumbs were sore with texting congratulatory messages to everyone at the yard.

I’ve been going into Tony Coyle and Kaine Wood’s to ride Ey Up It’s the Boss two to three times a week.  He’s such a character and all being well, I can’t wait to get the leg up on him on raceday.  He won at Ripon, the day after the party.  I went with the children to watch as it was family day and we were all cheering him on, he only got up by head, under an incredibly strong ride by David Nolan – so no pressure!

We’ve now got riding and fitness assessments to come, before the big day.  I can’t wait for the race but on the other hand I don’t want it to happen because then it’s all over and I have absolutely had the time of my life in preparation, plus I’ve lost the best part of three stone, which win, lose or fall off, is quite an achievement in itself!

I am so grateful for the support of everyone and it has come in so many forms, advice, help, practical, financial, helping with childcare and general words of encouragement.  If anyone else would like to donate to this wonderful charity, my JustGiving page is open.’

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