With the countdown to the 2021 Cheltenham Festival well underway, Racing Together spoke with Martin St Quinton, Chairman of the Cheltenham Racecourse Committee
Tell us about your journey into racing?
My father was the reason I got into racing. He was an annual member of some of the racecourses in and around Yorkshire where I grew up. From a very young age on a Saturday afternoon he would take me racing and this is where I fell in love with the sport. I was on the board of Epsom for nine years and I was asked to be Chairman of Cheltenham 18 months ago.
How did the partnership between Cheltenham Racecourse and local charity WellChild come about?
WellChild is an incredible charity with its Headquarters based in Cheltenham. We have worked with organisations such as Box4Kids across The Jockey Club for a number of years, so it felt like a natural progression. The team at WellChild is brilliant, and we are excited about this new partnership moving forward. We hope to encourage as many donations and raise as much awareness for this fantastic charity as possible. When the COVID-19 crisis took hold, the charity lost 60% of its projected income and had to quickly adapt its services to meet a sudden and urgent demand for help from families having to deliver round-the-clock care to their children alone, so we hope to raise as much support for the charity as we can.
What do you see as the benefits for Cheltenham and WellChild during this unique Festival year?
It’s a really exciting time for both organisations. I think it’s a brilliant opportunity for The Jockey Club, and racing in general, to use its platform over the four days of Jump racing’s biggest event to showcase the wonderful work of WellChild. We have recently launched a competition calling on children across the UK to send in their brightest and most creative horse racing-themed drawings, as part of a new competition to celebrate The Festival™ supporting WellChild and this year’s WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup. The competition celebrates the partnership, and the winning artists will have their artwork showcased on the course and across coverage of each day.
Is the partnership going to go further than the Gold Cup and The Festival?
Absolutely. The partnership is already for all four days of The Festival, not just the WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup. Both parties see this as the start of a longer-term relationship and we look forward to helping to achieve some really meaningful outcomes for WellChild from our partnership. Sir Anthony McCoy OBE has just been announced as a Wellchild Ambassador which bodes well for the longevity of our partnership and support for the charity.
What other community initiatives have you got going on at the moment?
It’s really important for us to work closely with the community, particularly with the impacts of the lockdown on the local economy. One of my favourite initiatives is our connection with St James’ City Farm in Gloucester. Last year, we purchased a racing pony for the children at the yard to train and race throughout the season. It’s a great way for young people to learn about our sport and be involved in ways not ordinarily available to them. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, the racing opportunities have been limited, but they did get one run in the autumn and I’m delighted to say it was a winning one!
My fellow committee member, Zara Tindall visited the farm just before the race to give a few tips to the jockey, which clearly worked!
Finally, who’s your fancy to win the Gold Cup?
If the ground stays soft, my money is on Venetia Williams’s Horse, Royale Pagaille. Although a novice, I think he will have a great chance.
Racing Together will feature a blog by Colin Dyer, CEO of WellChild to learn about his hopes for the charity when it is showcased throughout one of racing’s most famous events.