A lot has happened since I last blogged about my preparation for the Pertemps Willberry Charity Derby at Epsom (27 August — dear God, it’s less than five weeks away…!). In short, I have found myself riding out at one of the best yards anyone could wish to ever possibly visit, let alone ride at.
This all came about when Bob Champion called me saying “I’ve got you a trainer sorted. Come down to the Spring Meeting at Newmarket Racecourse and I can introduce you to him.”
So off I toddled one afternoon to be introduced to Charlie Appleby, who trains horses for racing giant, Godolphin, and who just so happened to train this year’s Epsom Derby winner, Masar.
A few weeks later at 4.20am, I typed in the postcode of the Moulton Paddocks yard from which Charlie runs his UK operation for Godolphin on the outskirts of Newmarket, and off I went.
I was completely crippled with nerves — it felt like my first day at school again. Would everyone laugh at how terrible a ‘jockey’ I was? Would I fall off? Would I get run away with? Would I ever be able to show my face at the yard ever again? I genuinely felt sick to my stomach.
There are no words to describe the set-up I was met by. If ever there was a place that would best represent horse heaven, this was it. There are several yards on the estate, all totally immaculate. Stables with shavings beds made to perfection. Horses with coats so shiny, you could see your face in them. A number of private gallops — grass and all-weather over varying distances. And staff — loads of them!
I was greeted warmly by everyone, all in matching ‘Godolphin blue’ and assigned my first horse to ride; a six-year-old. The first lot pulled out at 6am and off we went, initially trotting around a circular all-weather, before a 15 minute hack through the estate to the gallop we were using on those horses that morning — an eight-furlong woodchip — under the watchful eye of Charlie and his assistant, Alex Merriam.
I survived! And I survived the next lot too; a gorgeous two-year-old filly. And actually, I’ve survived all the ones I’ve ridden out since then (famous last words — I bet I get decked tomorrow morning…).
I drive down twice a week to ride two lots each time at the moment — the 4am alarm isn’t particularly welcoming, but actually it is great as I can fit it in before work starts at 10am — thankfully I work from home four days a week so there is nobody judging my horsey odour when I open my laptop to start my working day!
Everyone is so friendly and so free and generous in sharing their advice. I thought I was riding pretty short, but apparently not — I definitely still looked like I was riding at dressage length in comparison. So each time I go and ride out, I put my stirrups up another hole — I think I’m nearly there now (riding much shorter than these pictures show), and actually, as it was pointed out to me, it makes life a lot easier when trying to hold one that is a bit keen.
I know I’m probably not supposed to have favourites, but I have to admit I do; a three-year-old bay gelding who (so far!) has really looked after me, and allowed me to get to grips with things, such as position, my hands, reins and acclimatising to the pace these Flat horses travel at — upon reaching the top of the gallop on my first morning, a jockey commented I wasn’t meant to be puffing more than the horse. I explained the adrenaline rush was incredible — it took me until lunchtime to stop shaking…
I am so incredibly fortunate to be getting the once in a lifetime opportunity to ride in this brilliant charity race. Just writing it gives me goosebumps. I can’t wait, but at the same time, I don’t want the race to come around, because then it will all be over.
Talking of the race, I am currently in search of sponsorship for the clothing I will wear. There are three spots available for companies to display their name on my kit — on the leg of my breeches, on the neck line of my base layer and at the top of the back of my breeches. This is a great way to get involved with a truly historic day and an opportunity to advertise your brand in a unique way, with all money going to the two great charities; Hannah’s Willberry the Wonder Pony and the Bob Champion Cancer Trust. If you think you might be interested, or would like more details, please do get in touch with me via firstname.lastname@example.org — all suggestions are very welcome!
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You might have also seen that the race is being supported by a unique lunch, which is being held in the wonderful Diomed suite, with panoramic views and balcony overlooking the racecourse and Epsom Downs. Guests will be welcomed from 11.30am onwards with a champagne reception followed by a delicious three-course lunch. All the charity race riders will be there, plus celebrities from the racing and equestrian world, giving you a great opportunity to rub shoulders with some of the equestrian world’s big names. Not only that, but afternoon tea will also be served. Tickets are £125 per person, which includes racecourse entry — if you’re interested, please please visit www.championswillberry.org.uk or email email@example.com.
My boyfriend and I also recently managed to find the only five nights we both had free in our diaries between now and next summer, and made a last-minute escape to Majorca. I took it upon myself to take full advantage of our all inclusive deal, Aperol Sprtiz’s et al, and have returned refreshed but unfortunately also quite fat — back on with the trainers it is…!
Finally, as always, please do feel free to donate to my fundraising page here: uk.virginmoneygiving.com/GemmaRedrup All donations, no matter what size are so welcome as I’m desperate to raise as much as I can for both wonderful charities — thank you to anyone that already has!
For all the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, on sale every Thursday.