Tag Archive for: Magnolia Cup

Heptathlete Ellen Barber taking inspiration from grandfather in Magnolia Cup

Heptathlete Ellen Barber will experience athleticism of another kind when she swaps the track and field for the racecourse in the Markel Magnolia Cup at Goodwood.

Barber is a leading talent in the multi-event and the granddaughter of the late Paul Barber, a prolific racehorse owner who enjoyed great success with the likes of See More Business, Denman and more recently Topofthegame and Clan Des Obeaux.

The dairy farmer was also landlord to 14-time champion National Hunt trainer Paul Nicholls, who is one of several in the racing world to lend their support to Barber’s fundraising efforts at Goodwood.

Barber, an experienced rider who has hunted and evented, is training at Karl Burke’s Yorkshire yard and is juggling riding out there with her own schedule of athletic training.

As the race nears she is able to draw inspiration from one of her key motivations when agreeing to take on the challenge – the memory of her late grandfather.

Paul Barber leading in See More Business after his Cheltenham Gold Cup triumph
Paul Barber leading in See More Business after his Cheltenham Gold Cup triumph (David Jones/PA)

“One of the main reasons I wanted to do it is because grandpa died last year and I thought it’d be an amazing tribute to ride in a race in his honour,” she told the PA news agency.

“It was such a good opportunity, I couldn’t say no to it, I hope he’ll be proud looking down on me.

“With all our history, with our family being so close to Paul (Nicholls), it just seemed fitting and I couldn’t turn it down.

“Megan (Nicholls) has been great, she’s handed out loads of contacts who could help me, and everyone’s been so kind.

“They’re all excited to see me ride but all think it’s quite funny, I’m usually running round on my own two feet and now I’m in the saddle giving it a go!”

Of her history as a horsewoman, Barber added: “My mum was the master of the Blackmore and Sparkford Vale when I was younger, so I used to do a lot of eventing and hunting.

“When I was a teenager I rode out for Paul a few times and then a lot of our ex-racehorses used to come to my mum and I’d help her try to transition them into hunters.

“I’m quite used to thoroughbreds, but sprinters are quite different in comparison to hunters!

“Karl is planning to provide a horse for the day, he is as competitive as I am so I think he’s trying his best to find me something. Hopefully a rocket!”

The race will this year be run in aid of My Sister’s House, a West Sussex-based women’s centre, and has a line-up of 12 female riders ready to add the money they have gathered to the £2.4million raised since the first Magnolia Cup 13 years ago.

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Hadden-Wight savours ‘amazing experience’ in Magnolia Cup

Annabelle Hadden-Wight produced a composed performance to land the Markel Magnolia Cup aboard Scott Dixon’s Fosroc.

The 22-year-old, who is a work rider and racing secretary to trainer Jack Jones, partnered the seven-year-old gelding known under rules as Ebury.

The partnership got off to a good start over the five-and-a-half-furlong trip and travelled near the head of the field, pulling away two furlongs from home and holding on to narrowly finish ahead of the closing rival Eliza McCalmont.

“It has not really sunk in, it was so much fun, I want to do it all over again! I have only ridden the horse once and I didn’t know what to expect,” said Hadden-Wight.

“He jumped really well, we got a good start, and I was in front most of the way, and I had two each side and I decided that I was not going to let them come past.

Jockeys Annabelle Hadden-Wight, Khadija Al Bastaki, Caroline Miller, Lyn Comerford, and Elizabeth Prosser (left to right)
Jockeys Annabelle Hadden-Wight, Khadija Al Bastaki, Caroline Miller, Lyn Comerford, and Elizabeth Prosser (left to right) (Andrew Matthews/PA)

“My legs were good, but I did jump off and my knees buckled. I am pretty tired now!

“It has been an amazing experience, a lot of cameras, but the whole thing has been really well organised and we have been very well looked after.”

The victory had a special poignancy for Hadden-Wight, who at one point thought she would never walk again, let alone ride, after falling ill with meningitis when she was 18.

“Four years ago I was in the Philippines and I got really ill on my 18th birthday on just the second day we were there,” she explained.

“I ended up spending months and months out there – I had meningitis with lots of complications and my legs weren’t working, I was in a wheelchair. They said I may never walk or ride again.

Fosroc, also known as Ebury
Fosroc, also known as Ebury (Andrew Matthews/PA)

“After making a full recovery, I like to take every opportunity, it really changed my outlook on life. It was for the best, but at the time pretty scary.

“It is so nice to have my friends and family here, some I have not seen for ages.

“Mum is here, she is not horsey at all and has found the whole thing terrifying!”

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Magnolia Cup set to raise more money for good causes

Racing and equestrianism will come together at the Qatar Goodwood Festival with the aim of raising money for charity in the Magnolia Cup.

The five-and-a-half-furlong contest, for which 2024 applications are open, gives 12 women from a variety of backgrounds the chance to shine at the summer meeting.

The event is sponsored by Markel and in 2022 was run in aid of The Brilliant Breakfast, a British charity that supports disadvantaged young women and for whom the race raised over £300,000.

This year’s race is run in support of the Education Above All (EAA) Foundation, established in 2012 by Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, with the aim of transforming lives through education.

In recent years the race has also exemplified the increased focus on diversity within the sport, with Khadijah Mellah becoming the first hijab-wearing jockey to win an organised horse race of any kind in this country when successful in 2019.

Mellah learned to ride at Ebony Horse Club, an inner-city riding school in Brixton, and in 2022 the momentum continued when Ashleigh Wicheard was the winning rider and used her moment in the limelight to highlight the Black Lives Matter cause.

Khadijah Mellah winning the Magnolia Cup in 2019
Khadijah Mellah winning the Magnolia Cup in 2019 (Mark Kerton/PA)

Naturally both successes have to led both improvement in and increased discussion around diversity in racing, something that leads Cool Ridings founder Lydia Heywood to believe the sport is blazing a trail for other areas of equestrianism.

Heywood, a British-based event rider who represents Jamaica, created Cool Ridings in 2020 to give support to those not well represented within the world of equestrian sport.

Through the organisation Heywood met Olivia Kennedy, a fellow equestrian who will aim to do Cool Ridings proud when she takes her place in the 2023 Magnolia Cup.

Heywood said of the group: “Cool Ridings launched in 2020 following work I did with city riding schools, I felt there was a missing link when young people discover their passion for horses and want to find a pathway to continue into successful careers.

“I’ve been representing Jamaica in the sport (eventing) since 2017, I wanted to be the change I wanted to see in the industry and now I have a whole host of new friends and a community that really celebrate each other.

Ashleigh Wicheard taking the knee ahead of the race last year
Ashleigh Wicheard taking the knee ahead of the race last year (Adam Davy/PA)

“It’s a huge step in the right direction, aligning with governing bodies on training days where we support each other regardless of our level or ability.

“The Magnolia Cup was been a wonderful opportunity to get deserving members into the limelight, Olivia has grabbed the opportunity and made some great connections in the racing world.

“Her position and fitness has come on so much in such a short space of time, I’m so impressed and we’re really looking forward to the race day.”

Riders will this year raise funds for Education Above All – a charity founded by Qatar’s Sheikha Moza bint Nasser that aims to ensure more underprivileged children receive an education.

The race’s diverse cast this year includes Maryam Al Jaber, state lawyer in Qatar and the first Qatari female trainer of Camels, and Roya Nikkhah, Royal Editor for The Sunday Times, continuing the event’s status as a leader in terms of diversity and inclusion within racing.

Heywood said: “I think the racing world is leading the way when it comes to opportunities for young people and people from all backgrounds.

“Khadijah Mellah is someone who started riding at Ebony Horse Club and the work I’ve done with Ebony Horse Club has inspired me a lot to get Cool Ridings members opportunities.

“I’m sure the members will be grabbing their tickets, getting dressed up and cheering on Olivia.”

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