My interest in horse racing has always been there, for as long as I can remember.
Every Saturday, I used to watch the racing with my Grandad: I marvelled at the gorgeous horses and always followed any horse ridden by Ryan Moore or AP McCoy through their races. I drew pictures of the horses (who always had mismatched legs) and my Grandad would laugh that they would never be able to gallop! From drawing, I progressed on to studying the form and, just over three years ago, I started writing for Rein It In Racing.
Rein It In Racing is a website run by a group of passionate young people, dotted around England and Ireland. I love being a part of the team and having the opportunity to write about this great sport. Through my involvement in Rein It In, I have interviewed the likes of Oli Bell, Ed Chamberlin and Oisin Murphy and visited the British Racing School.
The first time I interviewed anyone was in February 2018 at my local racecourse, Leicester. I stopped Adrian Heskin as he was on his way out and asked if I could interview him. I was so relieved when he agreed but I was really nervous the whole way through!
I absolutely adore National Hunt racing. Nothing matches the rush you get when you see a racehorse in full flight. In October 2017, I stood by the water at Stratford Racecourse and watched as the horses flew over the fence. I was mesmerised.
From that point, I decided that I wanted to become a horse racing journalist and I have been working hard towards my goal ever since.
Over the past few months, I have developed a huge fascination with the bloodstock side of horse racing. It is such an interesting part of the industry and a lot goes on behind-the-scenes that the average punter doesn’t really appreciate.
One thing I love about racing is the whole ‘community’ on Twitter. Over the past three years, I have made friends with some amazing people that I wouldn’t have known if it wasn’t for this. Horse racing is a sport that transcends generations. It is a sport that is steeped in so much history and hearing the stories from older racing fans about the greats like Desert Orchid, Red Rum and Arkle is wonderful.
I love discussing who could win with other people because, as the clichéd phrase goes, “it’s a game of opinions”. And, it absolutely is. Ten people could have strong reasons for why a horse could win, yet all that becomes wrong at the exact moment the eventual winner crosses the line!
Obviously, when on social media, you do face trolls and bullies. Recently, I produced a video tipping a horse for a competition. I received a few hateful comments because the odds of the horse were “too short”.
As a sixteen-year-old girl making her way in racing, the support I have received has been over-whelming. I have been putting my work and opinions out on social media for three years. Occasionally, I receive nasty or critical comments. For me, it is a fact of life: it shouldn’t be, but it is. It is a part of society, nowadays. People can say “be kind” as much as they like but people aren’t always kind. I don’t like to dwell on negativity.
On Twitter, the positivity completely out-weighs the negativity. The stream of lovely messages after my video was so encouraging and kind-hearted that it made me forget about the mean things that were said. Bullies are a minority.
Something I was asked to address in this article was “trolling by middle-aged men”. I don’t like this notion. Middle-aged men, who do troll others, are a minority. I think this does the good older gentlemen out there a disservice. Horse racing is a male-dominated industry but I have never, ever felt like, because I am a girl, I am at a disadvantage. Maybe, that is because I have plainly ignored or been oblivious to any friction with people disapproving of my gender – I just say what I want to say.
I speak to a lot of male racing fans on Twitter; they are friendly and always happy to discuss things with me or answer my questions. If anything, my age is the thing that causes the most issues. I guess it is only natural that people don’t want to be challenged by a teenager. I completely understand that.
I am extremely passionate about getting more young people involved in horse racing. The initiatives that we have within racing are phenomenal. The British Racing School and National Horseracing College offer anybody the most ideal start into this sport. ‘Racing To School’ takes racing to the classroom. ‘Great British Racing’ runs so many exciting activities on racedays and online.
It is important that we get the word out there - out of our racing ‘bubble’ and into the wider community. We need to combat the negative stereotypes of racing, of which there are many – from the perception that the sport is cruel to the risks of drinking and gambling.
Whilst racing has its imperfections, we have a really incredible, inclusive, vibrant and thrilling sport right here in horse racing. From time to time, we are guilty of asking for more, more and more but we have top-class equine and human participants and an incredible fanbase.