Downton Abbey star to make racing debut in memory of father

Downton Abbey actor Patrick Kennedy has signed up to ride in a charity race in memory of his father.

Patrick, 41, will join 11 others as they line up in the “ride of their lives” race at York on 15 June for the 49th annual Macmillan charity raceday.

Patrick appeared in the fourth season of the ITV drama and his credits also include War Horse, Black Mirror, Peep Show and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.

“I was brought up by my race-mad dad — we went to the races all the time and so it was part of my upbringing,” said Patrick.

“My father died of cancer when I was 21 and it also affected his father and my uncle, so this event definitely means a lot to me.”

He added he will “probably have to wear some lucky green socks for the day” in a nod to his Irish roots and the Macmillan colours.

Patrick Kennedy

Patrick Kennedy

The raceday has raised more than £8 million to help people living with cancer since its launch in 1971.

James Brennan, head of marketing at York racecourse, said the event gets “bigger and better every year”.

“In more recent years, the ‘Ride of Their Lives’ has become increasingly important in both raising funds and spreading the word,” he said.

“The riders will be putting in months of training to prepare for the big day. They’re doing their bit so it’s up to the rest of us to dig deep and help them raise as much money as possible for Macmillan.

“Just attending to cheer them on will help, as the partnership sees money donated out of every admission ticket.”

Alex Schimmel, of Macmillan Cancer Support, said the raceday is the charity’s single biggest annual fundraising event.

“The money it raises helps us to support people dealing with the physical, financial and emotional effects of cancer,”she said.

“It’s a privilege to collaborate once again with York racecourse to raise even more life-changing funds.”

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The riders are as follows:

Leah Cooper, 18, from York, has a life-long interest in racing, as does her family

Actor Patrick Kennedy, 41, from London, was brought up going to the races with his father, who died of cancer when Patrick was 21. He is racing in memory of him.

Charlotte Atkinson, 24, from Harrogate, has ridden all her life. She is racing in memory of her grandparents, who loved racing, and her grandfather, who died from prostate cancer.

Catherine Dwyer, 22, recently moved to Ireland and daughter of dual Gold Cup-winning jockey Mark Dwyer

Nicky McGrath, 37, from Leyburn, North Yorkshire, is an experienced rider who works in pre-training

Michael Grech, 58, a businessman from Manchester and racehorse owner

Lauren Stanley, 31, a pilates instructor from London, grew up “pony mad” but lost touch with riding and is returning to the saddle for the race following a 13-year gap

Kate Poulter, 22, lives in a remote valley in the Yorkshire Dales. She grew up surrounded by ponies and owns a racehorse. She was also captain of her university riding team.

Macmillan’s National President Lady Halifax, 69, from Yorkshire, has ridden since she was a child. This will be her first race.

Jessica Todd, 25, from Yorkshire, a keen rider comes from a race-mad family, she is racing for her grandfather, who loves racing and is living with cancer.

Farmer Karl Avison, 55, from Yorkshire, has always been interested in horses and racing and started breeding thoroughbreds when he was 17.

Abi Stock, 25, from Worcestershire, works at Stratford racecourse and has been riding since she was a child, but has never ridden in a race before. She is riding in memory of her father who died from pancreatic cancer last year.

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