British students will take part in the French student racing championship for the first time this year. Two teams, from Oxford and Cambridge Universities, are heading to France to ride in the inaugural international students’ race at Longchamp on Easter Sunday (8 April).
Organised by L’Association des Cavaliers de Course Amateurs de France (L’ACCAF), the French amateur jockeys’ association, student racing is highly popular in France, with students from many universities competing to qualify for the Championnat de France des Grandes Écoles. This final, supported by France-Galop (the French Jockey Club) and sponsored by the PMU (the French version of the Tote) takes place at St Cloud Racecourse on 1 May.
German, English and French students will ride against each other in a seven-furlong flat race on the qualifying day at Longchamp. The first two home will qualify for the final, which is part of a card that features the Group Two Prix du Muguet and Group Three Prix de Cleopatre.
“It’s a great chance to do something completely different,” said former member of the British junior eventing team Sam Cutts, who will captain the Cambridge squad. “We’re really hoping the international races will take off and we might get British student racing going as a result.”
Sam’s team is made up of Natalie McGoldrick, Emma Kenney-Herbert and Helen Jamieson. Emma’s brother, Ed Kenney-Herbert, is captaining the Oxford team, joined by Tracey Underwood, Katharine Streit and Jessica Head. Only Ed and Natalie have race-riding experience, although Emma plans to point-to-point her horse this season, but they are riding out for nearby trainers and will attend a training weekend in Chantilly next month at L’École des Courses Hippiques, one of five racing schools in France.
The horses are selected from those at the racing school, and the students draw them at random before the race.
Harold Gential, L’ACCAF’s representative in Britain, said: “We wanted to mirror the international aspects of racing under Rules, and we hope to get more countries involved in the years to come.”
Harold rode in the races himself in 2005 and 2006, and says: “Riding at Longchamp is an unbelievable experience, and the winner is interviewed by Equidia [the French racing channel], so it’s a dream come true.”