‘A catalyst for good’: giving people a second chance through horses

Two friends who have both been through traumatic times have launched a new initiative to help give others a fresh start.

The Bridge of Hope (Project Racing) is a not-for-profit enterprise founded by Tory MP George Freeman and his childhood friend James Fellowes, with the aim of providing “renewed hope to those who have taken a tumble in life through a meaningful new career in horseracing”.

The launch marks the 60th anniversary of George’s father, Arthur Freeman’s, 1958 Grand National win on Mr What. It also tragically marks the 50th anniversary of the collapse of Arthur’s life from a combination of concussion, gambling, alcohol and mental health problems.

The Sir Peter O’Sullevan Charitable Trust is the first major sponsor of the initiative and the MP thanked the trust for its “wonderful support”.

“It means a huge amount for a lot of reasons — but on a personal level it has a special meaning,” he said.

“Not only is Sir Peter one of the legends of the sport and the voice of my childhood, I have never forgotten the wreath and card that he sent for my late father’s tragically premature funeral. It was a beautiful wreath and said simply on the card in his writing ‘To one of the bravest of them all. Peter O’Sullevan’.

“As a 19-year-old struggling to make sense of the tragedy of it all, it made a huge impression on me. I have never forgotten it.”

George teamed up with James, who also went through a difficult time in life through a combination of “bad people, bad timing and bipolar disorder”, to set up the initiative.

“George and I wanted to turn these two deeply personal and traumatic experiences into a catalyst for good,” said James.

“We are piloting the Bridge of Hope (Project Racing) in the horse racing industry to help provide a second chance in life to many and at the same time address racing’s biggest issue — the chronic shortage in racing staff.

“We have several outstanding charities keen to partner with us, as well as the world’s finest racing schools primed to train our graduates when we fully go live in January.

“From a governance perspective, we are delighted to announce that we will operate as a distinct project under the auspices of a progressive new charity that promotes inclusive recruitment — The Resume Foundation.

“Finally, the last piece of the puzzle is finding the right long-term strategic partners. We are absolutely thrilled with the generous financial commitment from the Sir Peter O’Sullevan Charitable Trust and are interested in developing mutually beneficial partnerships with other organisations with a progressive social responsibility agenda and an inclusive recruitment model.”

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Nigel Payne, administrator and trustee of the trust, added it is a “brilliant concept and one Peter would have loved to support”.

“There is little doubt that a shortage of staff will offer a major threat to our industry over the next few years, so a scheme such as this is absolutely vital for the future,” he said.

“The scheme has been well thought out and if we, as an industry, really get behind it, who knows what could be achieved.”

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