From journalist to jockey: this is it — suddenly everything feels very real…

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  • Well, this is it — the Champions Willberry Charity Derby is now a little over 48 hours away and everything is starting to feel very real. When I found out back in November last year that I would be riding in the race, it obviously felt a very long way away. But now it’s time to put into practice everything I’ve worked hard on over the past few months — I really want to make it all worthwhile. Although winning might not be quite within our reach having seen a list of the other horses in the race, I just want to give it my best shot and not look back on it wishing I could have done better. Most of all, I don’t want to let the horse (now nicknamed Gorgeous Jerry by myself) and everyone who has supported me down.

    I really want to give my fundraising effort one last push — sorry, it’s probably getting annoying for you by now! But please do head over here: uk.virginmoneygiving.com/GemmaRedrup and donate whatever you can. All the money is going to two incredible charities; Hannah’s Willberry Wonder Pony and The Bob Champion Cancer Trust, so please dig deep and, as I’ve said before, even if it’s £1, you will make a difference.

    Yesterday morning (Friday) I rode Jerry in the one and only piece of proper work I was able to squeeze in before the race (see video top). I met his trainer, Laura Morgan, and Kate Hanson, who works for Laura, at local Flat trainer Mick Appleby’s yard near Oakham.

    Jerry and I on the gallops

    It was a great opportunity to give Jerry a proper workout on Mick’s gallop and get a feel for his gears and how and when to use them. The gallop also had a little downhill stretch which was useful to ride to get a feel of how Jerry might be when we’re going down and round the famous Tattenham Corner at Epsom.

    I’m thrilled to report Jerry was fabulous — he’s such a gent and I hope it stays that way come Monday!

    Gorgeous Jerry

    I’ve tried to keep up with my fitness and I feel a lot stronger than I did a couple of months ago. Unfortunately though (this is the competitive person in me speaking!), we all have to carry the same weight — 12st. This means that I’ve had to borrow a one-stone saddle and by the time I’m kitted out, I will still need to carry around 1.5 stone in lead. This is less than ideal from a racing perspective as it’s all dead weight, as opposed to weight that can actually be useful.

    Excitingly I picked up my freshly embroidered kit from Racesafe HQ yesterday. Thanks to the team there, it looks very professional (insert joke about all the gear and no idea here…!). Again, I’m so grateful to Velcourt, a leading provider of farm business management and advisory services in the UK and overseas, for sponsoring my kit.

    My freshly embroidered kit

    Everything is in place now, so it’s full-steam ahead. I have one more ride on Jerry tomorrow morning and then the next time I see him will be in the paddock before my race — argh! I’ve had all sorts of weird dreams and nightmares about the day, such as falling off as soon as I’m legged-up and also falling off at the start and watching the wonderful Jerry win the race without me, but thankfully the track in that particular nightmare was right-handed and not left like Epsom, so I’m praying it’s not a premonition!

    I’m also so excited to have a bus-load of friends and family coming to support, enjoy the day and also hopefully keep me distracted — we need to be at Epsom at 11.30am to walk the course and enjoy a fundraising lunch, but my race isn’t until 5.55pm, so there’s a lot of time to get nervous!

    Continues below…

    I will be in among some great other runners and riders, including Lucia Borradaile, who is rumoured to become the oldest competitor to ride around the Derby course at the age of 60. This is the same Lucia that put us all to shame in our fitness assessment at the British Racing School in May, so she is not to be underestimated! At the other end of the scale, 16-year-old Georgia King, daughter of trainer Alan King, is also having a go. She looks to be on a very good horse, and she is obviously very familiar with the racing world, not to mention the fact she recently represented Great Britain at the Pony European Eventing Championships. It’s going to be a hot race, but as long as we all enjoy it and runners and riders come back in one piece, it will be a success.

    Wish us luck!

    Gemma x

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