Carlisle has been hosting horse racing since the 16th century, and for several years hsd included a ladies night on its calendar. Tonight, though, Carlisle takes the idea into a whole new realm with the world's first ever race programme featuring only lady riders.
The card at Carlisle has six races on it, with each one having between 12 and 17 runners. The total of 91 runners is one many meetings would be delighted to attract, and compares very well with today's other two flat cards at Windsor (66 runners) and Ripon (72 over 7 races). General manager at the course, is delighted with the number of entries and also the way the public are responding to the event. "Ladies night is already the highlight of the social calendar at Carlisle, but with this all-ladies card we're expecting a huge attendance," he said. "We're already 50% up on last year's ticket sales and we're expecting over 10,000 racegoers, which, for a Monday night anywhere, is pretty good."
The Edinburgh Woollen Mill Company sponsor the evening and the feature event, a handicap to be run over a mile. Trainers running horses in this race include Tom Dascombe, Mark Johnston and Richard Fahey. Although top female jockey Hayley Turner is riding elsewhere, Kirsty Milczarek and Cathy Gannon will be amongst the professionals pitting their ability against a good number of amateur riders. Gannon said "The fixture is a great opportunity for lady jockeys. I will also be donating any prize money I win to the two nominated charities, Breast Cancer Care and Breast Cancer Campaign."
As well as the horse racing, there will be a ladies' footrace and other activities supporting the goal of raising Â£30,000 for the two charities. Jockey Kelly Harrison has good reason to hope that target is reached. "Having lost my mother to cancer I particularly want to support the two charities in whatever way I can and by raising awareness," she said.
Following the racing, 2008 X Factor winner Alexandra Burke is performing a concert. Burke is a regular supporter of cancer charities and last October joined the Peru Inka Trail Hike for Breast Cancer Care, along with Fearne Cotton, Denise Van Outen, and Holly Willoughby. Tonight's concert will be rather less arduous, for which Burke will no doubt sing "Hallelujah."