Oxford and Cambridge go head-to-head at the races

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  • Oxford will go head-to-head with Cambridge in a varsity battle next weekend.

    But it’s not the boat race — the universities will be taking each other on on the racecourse.

    Each university will field a team of five riders to take part in a race at Newmarket’s Rowley Mile Racecourse on Saturday, 10 October.

    James Alexander is captaining the defending champions, Cambridge University, while Alice Stables leads the way for Oxford.

    The 1m race will be run as the first race on day two of the Future Champions Festival.

    All the riders are current students at Britain’s two top universities and many of them had never ridden a racehorse before training for this race began in the spring.

    James said riding in last year’s race was “incredible”.

    “I don’t remember a great deal about the race, but I do remember the cheers starting to build as we reached the two furlong marker and once I was past the post I became aware of a crescendo of noise coming from behind me,” he said.

    “The past few months have been pretty intense as I have been getting up at 5.30am to ride out in Newmarket and then rushing back to Cambridge in time for the start of the day.

    “Any Oxbridge student will tell you that in sporting terms the Varsity Match is the biggest thing and with me, as with most other people, it will represent the pinnacle of my sporting career.

    “It’s all about the team competition and seeing Cambridge finish ahead of Oxford. I would happily finish stone last as long as my teammates lift the trophy.”

    Alice Stables has previously been involved in carriage driving. She had never been to a racecourse before last year’s event, when she supported her friends.

    “Since April I have been riding out two or three times a week for trainer Sylvester Kirk. When I got on a racehorse for the first time that morning I was absolutely terrified,” she said.

    “I have also been having tuition on the equicizer from former jockey John Reid. The first try on the equicizer was phenomenally painful and I only lasted for about 20 seconds, but that inspired me to get fit.

    “Our team tactics are going to be simple — just win!”

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