Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 24 August 2019

First British jockey to race in a hijab to take on Goodwood’s Magnolia Cup

Eighteen-year-old Khadijah Mellah will race on Ladies Day at the meet

Khadijah Mellah, 18, of London, will become the first British jockey to compete in a horse race in a hijab on Thursday at Goodwood. Courtesy: Great British Racing  
Khadijah Mellah, 18, of London, will become the first British jockey to compete in a horse race in a hijab on Thursday at Goodwood. Courtesy: Great British Racing  

A London teenager will become the first British jockey to compete in a horse race in a hijab on Thursday at Goodwood.

Khadijah Mellah, 18, began riding at the age of 10 but got serious about the sport after learning about a charitable stables near her home in Peckham. The Ebony Horse Club in Brixton teaches young people from disadvantaged backgrounds how to ride and care for horses and has helped a number of their members find work in the equine industry.

The Magnolia Cup race will see 12 women, all amateur jockeys, compete in the first race of Ladies Day. The riders, including Olympian Victoria Pendleton and model Vogue Williams are raising money for UK women’s reproductive and gynaecological health charity Wellbeing of Women.

During her preparations for the big race, Ms Mellah sat her A Level exams and observed Ramadan. She is due to begin a mechanical engineering degree in September.

Ms Mellah is on a mission to change the way people see women from her community and hopes the race will play a role in showing what Muslim girls can achieve.

"There’s quite a stereotype around Muslim girls and them ‘not being able to follow their sporting passions and dreams’,” she told The Sun.

“I want to be a role model to anyone who wants to do something that they wouldn’t initially believe was in their comfort zone and allow people to follow their aspirations and dreams."

Incredibly, Ms Mellah sat on a racehorse for the first time just two months ago, but is fully prepared for the challenge ahead thanks to help from the British Racing School and horse trainer Charlie Fellowes, whose horse she will be riding on the day.

“Khadijah has worked so hard since she has been based in Newmarket and to say she has improved in her riding is an understatement,” Mr Fellowes told the Chichester Observer.

“She has ridden out with my team practically every day and has built a really close bond with Haverland who adores her. She has been so determined and focused and all of the team here wish her every bit of luck for the race next week.”

Ms Mellah will ride a horse named Haverland in the race.

Ms Mellah’s story is the subject of a documentary, Riding a Dream, due for broadcast in the UK in the Autumn and funded by Great British Racing, Goodwood Racecourse and The Racing Foundation.

“For the documentary Riding a Dream to be successful we needed someone who was determined, ambitious and brilliant and we found that in Khadijah,” said the film’s producer Oli Bell.

“It’s a wonderful story because you see someone who never would have expected to ride in a race and you can see her blossom. Hopefully it will show that whoever you are, whatever your background, you can achieve your dreams.”

Updated: July 31, 2019 09:39 AM

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