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Town Plate-winning rider could contemplate amateur switch after fairytale success

Rachel Rennie may apply for an amateur licence, and hopes to defend her Newmarket Town Plate crown as a 50-year-old, after achieving “one of the highlights of her life” with victory in the historic race.

Rennie first planned to ride in 2016, but was unable to do so after being diagnosed with breast cancer.

She was in the field on Saturday instead, having undergone surgery and many rounds of chemotherapy and radiotherapy in the intervening years, and made the most of her belated opportunity as she and Friends Don’t Ask won the world’s oldest and longest Flat race.

Rachel Rennie celebrates her victory in Newmarket's historic Town Plate
Rachel Rennie celebrates her victory in Newmarket’s historic Town Plate (The Jockey Club)

Friends Don’t Ask, a three-time winning chaser trained by Rennie’s Newmarket-based boss Martin Smith, proved well up to the task over the marathon three-mile-six-furlong course – producing a grandstand finish to beat Stripe Of Honour by a length in the 351st edition of the race.

As Rennie reflected on their achievement, she is already beginning to cast her mind forward to another attempt to win again next year – and the possibility of riding under rules as an amateur, too.

“It is slightly tempting to go for the amateur licence, because I’ve got a couple of horses I could ride in Flat races,” she said.

“It is just a case of it being a full-time effort rather than just a three-month effort.”

There were emotional celebrations as Rennie passed the post in front.

“It has to definitely be one of the highlights of my life,” she said.

“I’ve never done loads of competitive things apart from horse-based stuff – so to do something that is a bit more than your local show is good. The whole thing has been very special.

“I’m just amazed I managed to get back from cancer and get fit. I’m fitter than I thought I was – because that was a major worry.

“I’m just glad to be here to do it – and maybe I’ll be here again next year to do it.

“There was a little bit of me thinking back to five years ago, because this was the culmination of the getting-back progress. It was the one thing I didn’t get to do then that I have now.

“It is great. I could hear people shouting at me – which I didn’t think I would be able to with the crowd that was here.

“I pulled him out, and he took off, then I thought I was going to get caught again at the end. I just had enough energy to push him out a bit – and I managed not to fall off!

“I was thinking ‘where is the line?’ You can’t help but think that you are going to get beaten when you have one come up your inside like the runner-up did, but I knew he would stay the distance.”

As part of the presentation, Rennie received the traditional reward of a box of Newmarket sausages – the prize her colleagues have been coveting over the past weeks.

She added: “The yard had the eyes on the prize of the sausages – and they wouldn’t have been happy with anything else!

“I’ve had people shouting at me across the gallops in Newmarket all week. The reaction to this has been great.

“All the lads talk to each other and they often asked which one is the Town Plate horse when we were out. They were telling them ‘this is the Town Plate winner’ on Friday and I thought ‘Oh God do you have to?!’.”