©Healy Racing Photos
There are four Irish competitors among the 12 riders who will participate in the St Patrick's Derby at The Cheltenham Festival, in aid of Cancer Research UK.
The Flat race, over one mile and five furlongs, takes place on St Patrick's Thursday, March 14th, run as the seventh race of the day.
Over the past three years in excess of £650,000 has been raised for Cancer Research UK at The Festival and the charity race, won last year by Olympic Three Day Event rider Tina Cook on Pascha Bere, trained by her brother Nick Gifford, will be the centrepiece of the fundraising for Cancer Research UK on St Patrick's Day.
The 12 jockeys for the 2013 charity race, selected from over a hundred applications, include riders based in England, Ireland and France with a wide range of equestrian skills. Competitors from England include Sky Sports broadcaster Alex Hammond and Phillip Hemmings, the son of well known racehorse owner Trevor Hemmings.
James Fenton, a member of An Garda Siochana, is one of the riders representing Ireland and Equidia presenter Sally Ann Grassick, although Irish herself, lives and works in France.
The 12 riders taking part are:
Phillip Hemmings (30, from Telford, Shropshire), is the son of Trevor Hemmings, owner of Grand National winning horses Hedgehunter and Ballabriggs, and Festival victors Trabolgan and Albertas Run. Phillip is the director of one of Britain's leading National Hunt studs, Wood Farm Stud in Shropshire, which he took over in July 2012 when Bill Bromley retired. Phillip has ridden in a bumper for champion trainer Paul Nicholls, taken part in two hunter chases and won a point-to-point in Ireland for Eugene O'Sullivan.
Alex Hammond (38, Swindon), is a presenter for both Sky Sports News and At The Races. Since joining Sky Sports News in 2003, Alex has become a regular presenter on the daily show, 'Good Morning Sports Fans'. Alex has also worked on radio for Talksport, written a racing column in the Daily Mail and writes a weekly piece on skysports.com for SkyBet. Alex rides out regularly for Oxfordshire-based trainer Lawney Hill and champion trainer Paul Nicholls in Somerset and has gained valuable experience riding in over 50 amateur Flat races.
James Fenton (37, Fermoy, Co Cork, Ireland), is from a large family of racing enthusiasts in Fermoy, Co Cork and can regularly be found riding out for his uncle, David Fenton as well as local trainer Pat Flynn. James is a member of An Garda Siochana, Ireland's national police service, currently stationed in Dungarvan, Co. Waterford, attached to the detective unit. James' wife Joanne, lost a member of her family to cancer in 2011 and James is riding in the Cancer Research UK Charity race at The Festival in their memory.
Harriet Bond (20, Shipton Oliffe, Glos), is an accomplished event rider based in Gloucestershire, close to Jonjo O'Neill's Jackdaws Castle stables, where she regularly rides out on her mother's horses. Harriet, a History of Art student at Kingston University, has competed in charity races at York, Goodwood and Newmarket and is looking forward to riding at Cheltenham where her boyfriend, jockey Richie McLernon, is a regular rider. Harriet has the full support of her family and various family businesses such as BMI and Bond Aviation Group.
Brian Bunyan (45, London),originally from Kildare Town in Ireland juggles a busy corporate life, as a director in the Financial Markets Division of Standard Chartered Bank in London, with his passion for racing.Brian is making a comeback to race riding after 25 years since his last ride. During his school days, he rode four winners as an amateur jockey at Punchestown, Leopardstown and Killarney and has three horses in training in Ireland. In 2011 Brian ran the London Marathon for Racing Welfare and is active in raising money for Standard Chartered Bank's in-house charity(Seeing is Believing), which has raised more than $50million to treat preventable blindness in developing countries.Brian has personal motivation for raising money for Cancer Research UK as he lost his father to cancer.His father (Arthur) worked in horseracing for more than 60 years and with a small string had considerable success, including training Local Whisper to win the Tattersall Gold Cup at the Punchestown Festival. Brian's brother Darren, who is now training in Ireland, will provide him with a horse for the race.
Alison Royston (38, Whixley, York), has been inspired to ride in the Cancer Research UK St Patrick's Derby as she lost her mother-in-law to Myeloma, an incurable form of bone marrow cancer, in November 2012. Alison is currently employed as the Head of Football Administration for Leeds United Football Club, having previously fulfilled the same role for the FA Premier League and is delighted that the Leeds United Fitness Coach has agreed to put her through her paces with a specially tailored fitness programme ahead of her big day at The Festival in March! Alison has been riding since she was three years of age taking part in a variety of equestrian disciplines, and currently rides out at Ben Haslam's yard in Middleham, North Yorkshire where she has two horses in training. The cheers will certainly be heard in Leeds if Alison is able to live out her dream and ride a winner at The Festival.
Lucy Watson (32, London), is Digital Subscriptions Manager for the Racing Post and has gained valuable experience on the racecourse riding in point-to-points and working for Yorkshire trainer Tim Walford. Lucy has taken up the challenge of riding in the St Patrick's Derby to support her mother who, in the last 18 months, has been diagnosed with the rare form of cancer, Sarcoma. Lucy would like her mother to watch her ride at Cheltenham, a place they both hold dear in their hearts.
Mark Holder (47, Bristol),has fantastic memories of Cheltenham Racecourse from when his father, Richard Holder, won the Triumph Hurdle at the 1989 Festival with Ikdam and hopes that March 14 this year will prove an equally memorable occasion. As a child, Mark lost his best friend to cancer, and is hugely motivated to raise as much money as he can for Cancer Research UK. Mark has ridden in point-to-points, over hurdles and on the Flat as an amateur, but hasn't competed in any type of race for over 25 years. Mark keeps himself fit by riding out for trainer Michael Blake, who may also provide him with a mount for the race.
Grainne Loughnane (27, Navan, Co Meath, Ireland), is a solicitor for Walsh & Co and currently enjoys riding and competing on 2006 Queen Mother Champion Chase winner Newmill. Grainne is hoping to ride Newmill in the St Patrick's Derby and reports that his owner, Mrs Mary Hayes, is excited about the prospect of her champion returning to Cheltenham to take part in another race at The Festival. Grainne is an experienced rider who has ridden as an amateur in point-to-points, hunter chases and bumpers and regularly hunts with the Ward Union and Meath Harriers.
Rachael Harding (25, Marlborough, Wiltshire), works for the Tedworth Hunt in Wiltshire and has ridden all her life. Rachael's mother Heather Ridley trains point-to-pointers and has herself battled with cancer over the years and Rachael's father Mick died in January 2012 following a long battle with cancer. Rachael looks forward to the support of her many friends and family who will enjoy following her campaign.
Andrew Croskery (30, Ditcheat, Somerset), works for champion trainer Paul Nicholls in Ditcheat. Andrew has worked for some of the top National Hunt trainers including Willie Mullins and Donald McCain and is currently training his own point-to-pointer. Andrew was diagnosed with cancer of the salivary gland at 27 and following surgery and radiotherapy was able to return to work in January last year. Riding at The Festival would be the highlight of his career to date and he is looking forward to raising money for Cancer Research UK following all the support he received whilst undergoing his own treatment for the disease.
Sally Ann Grassick (29, Lamorlaye, France), originally from Ireland, but now lives and works in France, is a presenter and journalist for the French racing channel Equidia. She currently holds an amateur licence in France and has ridden in various races over the past five years, winning one last year for Andre Fabre and Sheikh Mohammed on French Oaks day at Chantilly. Cancer Research UK is a charity close to Sally Ann's heart as her father died from skin cancer four years ago.
Cheltenham Racecourse's Regional Director, Ian Renton, said: "We have been delighted with the success of the St Patrick's Derby at The Festival which has helped Cancer Research UK raise an incredible amount of money over the last three years. The riders that have taken part have been seriously competitive and the race has proved a popular addition to what is already a great day's racing."
Frances Milner, Director of Supporter Led Fundraising at Cancer Research UK, added: "We are truly delighted to be involved in this very special charity event at The Festival. Over the past three years the charity race, on St Patrick's Day at Cheltenham, has raised a staggering amount of money for our lifesaving research. We're really looking forward to yet another successful race this year.
"The money raised through the charity race and our wider partnership with the racecourse will make a real difference to the vital work of our scientists, doctors and nurses, who are all working to help us beat cancer sooner. We wish all of the participants the best of luck and hope that they enjoy the day."