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Proud to change perceptions: Muslim jockey hopes to encourage diversity

A year on from her Magnolia Cup victory at Goodwood, Khadijah Mellah hopes her success will inspire other young people and help encourage diversity in the industry.

Last August, the then-18-year-old became the first person to ride in a hijab on a British racecourse, taking the win on the Charlie Fellowes-trained Haverland.

She went on to be named the Sunday Times young sportswoman of the year and is now an ambassador for Great British Racing.

Khadijah, who grew up in Peckham, south London, and learnt to ride at Ebony Horse Club in Brixton, is the subject of documentary Riding a Dream, which will be shown on ITV this Saturday (1 August) at 12.50pm, and which has been named best British short film at the prestigious British Documentary Film Festival.

In an interview with Great British Racing, Khadijah said her win has changed some perceptions of young Muslim women.

“That’s something I am proud of and will continue to do,” she said. “Me being Muslim isn’t just it. It is important that people realise that being a certain religion or from a certain background doesn’t determine your interests and the person you are, and it certainly doesn’t determine how good you are.

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“For me it is so important to be able to spread the message that you can be successful despite your background.”

Khadijah said she hopes her experience will help encourage diversity and inclusion in the industry.

“When I was younger, I didn’t think getting into racing would be an option for me or someone of my background; there was no one who looked like me,” she said.

“I hope now I have joined the racing industry and been a success story, young people like me will also see there is an opportunity for them to join that racing community.”

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