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17 October 2022

This week we hear from Naomi Howgate, BHA Head of Diversity and Inclusion on Black History Month and what it means for British racing

Black History Month (BHM) is marked in the UK in October, and in British racing it is a time to reflect on progress made, and to highlight what still needs to be done in support of equality, inclusion and opportunity for black people. 

The Diversity in Racing in Steering Group has released a Black History Month campaign to highlight some of the trailblazing people in the sport, and projects that are helping make a positive difference to the diversity landscape of British horseracing.

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In the USA, there is extensive research and information on the history and role of African Americans in the sport, including their dominance in the Kentucky Derby in the early years of the race. However, in the UK this information has not been celebrated or documented in the same way.  

This year will be the first time that British racing has collectively marked Black History Month. It is accepted that there is a way to go before we achieve true representation and equality, particularly in leadership roles in the sport, and that we are at the start of this journey – one that we need to go on together. 

As Callum Helliwell says in our campaign video, we are now ‘writing the history books that don’t yet exist’. You can watch the film that features Callum alongside 2022 Magnolia Cup Winner Ashleigh Wicheard and Epsom Racecourse chairman Brian Finch here and it will be shared across social media throughout the month.

Please support the campaign by sharing the film and using the hash tags #BlackHistoryMonth and #ALLINTHERACE. 

Trailblazers and role models

While British racing may not have a very rich history when it comes to ethnic diversity, there are several trailblazers who have become, or are becoming, real role models.  Corey Adamson was the first black jockey to win on the Flat, riding a horse called Page Boy back in 1993.  Josh Apiafi was the first to win over jumps a couple of years later, riding Faithful Star. Professional Flat jockey Royston Ffrench was dubbed ‘the Tiger Woods of the track’ in the mid-1990s. Sean Levey has followed suit becoming the first black jockey to win a Classic (2018) and so far in his career winning over £6 million in prize money.

There are a growing number of jockeys from ethnically diverse backgrounds who are entering the sport with the potential to change the face of racing and inspire a whole new generation on and off the track. Kaiya Fraser, a young jockey born in Hackney east London, has won eight races on the Flat despite only entering the sport three years ago. O’Meara Rusike rode in this year’s Magnolia Cup, after sitting on a horse for the first time in her native Zimbabwe just five years ago, and now works full-time for Ralph Beckett in Andover. 

New initiatives 

Initiatives that aim to make routes into racing more accessible are increasing, going against the traditional perception of ‘The Sport of Kings’, accessible only to the high society.  Racing is a family sport and needs to ensure fair opportunities for all. One of these is the Racing Pathway.  

“We are aiming to inspire a more diverse and inclusive generation into horse racing, one that is more reflective of society. By defining pathways into the sport for the future fan and a non-yard based workforce, we have been able to launch engaging initiatives and routes into the sport. Our aim is to make sure that no matter what age, colour, religion or gender, there is a place for you to land and to be embraced by British horseracing,” said Josh Apiafi about the Racing Pathway.  

The Riding a Dream Academy was established as a legacy of Khadijah Mellah’s Magnolia Cup win in 2019 and to date has seen 60% of their applicants come from a diverse ethnic background. This is in stark contrast to the estimated 1% of licensed jockeys that are non-white.  

Representation at board level of the sport is not much better than in our athletes, where around only 2% of board members are ethnically diverse. Racing is not alone in the lack of representation in this area, a recent Sport England report shows that across 125 sports, less than 8% of board members identified as BME (Black and minority ethnic), despite 14% of the population identifying this way in the latest census. 

Racing to School’s Trustee, Paul Brewster has come full circle from his days riding in Barbados to return to the sport through the charity’s work supporting young people, as he explains in his blog  for Racing Together.

Our hope is that the campaign launched to mark Black History Month will raise awareness and spark conversation, and that in the future, racing will lead the way in showing that those from all backgrounds can thrive in a sport that they love. 

Further Resources and Reading:

For further details please contact Naomi Howgate, Head of Diversity and Inclusion at or +44(0)7425 156 344 or Diversity & Inclusion Project Manager Di Farrell-Thomas

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