New academy gives children from under-represented communities chance to pursue racing dream

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  • A new academy inspired by pioneering jockey Khadijah Mellah has been launched this week, offering riders from under-represented communities the chance to pursue a career in racing.

    The Riding A Dream Academy shares its name with the documentary that followed Khadijah from her start at the Ebony Horse Club in Brixton to her victory in the Magnolia Cup at Goodwood in 2019, where she became the first British Muslim woman to win a UK race.

    The academy will run two programmes; The Khadijah Mellah Scholarship and a residential week, both of which will be aimed at 14- to 18-year-olds and delivered by the British Racing School in Newmarket.

    Applications [ www.ridingadreamacademy.com] opened this week (20 May) for the scholarship, which will take on eight talented teenagers from under-represented communities in its pilot year.

    They will spend a week at the British Racing School honing their skills and then attend 11 monthly weekend sessions where they will each be paired with a mentor.

    They will also have the chance to gain work experience at a top trainer’s yard, participate in further pony races and gain a 1st4Sport Level 1 qualification in the racing industry.

    The second arm of the programme, the residential week, will be aimed at less experienced riders and offer them an introduction to the industry.

    “Racing changed my life for ever and I hope that by getting involved in the Riding A Dream Academy it will change other young people’s lives too,” Khadijah said.

    “If you come from my background it can be difficult to imagine yourself in racing so I hope the academy will give other young people the confidence that racing is a sport that you can get involved in, where you will be supported and where you can achieve your dreams and anything you set your mind to.”

    The academy has been developed by ITV racing’s Oli Bell and Great British Racing’s head of PR Naomi Lawson and is being funded by the Racing Foundation.

    Oli said that he hoped the academy would provide a legacy from Khadijah’s achievements.

    “She showed that the impossible can be possible and it is something I am hugely proud to be a part of,” he said. “I look forward to meeting the racing stars of the future who will be a part of this terrific new initiative.”

    Susannah Gill, trustee of the Racing Foundation and chair of the Diversity in Racing Steering Group, said: “British racing is a wonderful sport and all of us involved in it must work together to ensure future generations feel they can have the opportunity to be part of it.

    “The Riding a Dream Academy is a fantastic example of the positive action needed to ensure British racing is a diverse and inclusive sport in which everyone has the opportunity to achieve their potential and where people from all communities feel welcome.

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    “The Racing Foundation is very pleased to offer its support from the outset and huge credit must go to Oli Bell, Naomi Lawson, the British Racing School and everyone involved in making the Riding a Dream Academy a reality.”

    Naomi Howgate, general manager of Ebony Horse Club in Brixton where Khadijah learned to ride, also welcomed the initiative.

    “Having role models that you relate to is so important and it is great that the young people at Ebony and other urban equestrian centres who have been inspired by Khadijah’s achievements will also have the opportunity to explore the world of horse racing through the academy’s two programmes.”

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