Winning the Greatwood Charity Race at Newbury on Saturday would be ‘the cherry on top’ for Olivia May but whatever the outcome, she will be filled with immense pride at having taken part in the contest.
May, who works for the Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association as their Communications Co-ordinator, decided to apply for a place in the line-up following a tough year for her family in 2019.
The race is run in aid of the Greatwood Charity, which cares for formers racehorses and use them to assist children with special educational needs through their Animal Assisted Intervention (AAI) educational programmes.
She said: “Racing has always been in my family and my dad used to be a point-to-point jockey. I thought in 2020 I’d grab the year by the reins, try new things and go for it. A couple of friends did it last year and they said it was the best thing they’d ever done.
“It’s been a complete change of style for me”
“I saw the opportunity on the Amateur Jockeys Association’s website and when I contacted them, entries had just closed. They said if I got my entry in by the end of the day, they would look into my application and let me know.
“So, I quickly did my application form and they got back to me to tell me I had been accepted.”
Since finding out in the New Year that she was taking part, May has stuck to a strict schedule, which she has had to fit around her day job, to get her race fit for the 1m4½f contest for the past couple of months.
Her regime has involved riding out three times a week in the morning for Newmarket handler Tom Clover, utilising the gym at the Injured Jockeys Fund’s Peter O’Sullevan house in the evenings, and working with jockey coach Neil Pollard on an equicizer once a week.
May added: “I’m finding that I’ve been riding most days a week even if I’m in Newmarket or on my own horse at home. You almost need to do the gym or something else otherwise to keep on top of the general riding fitness.
“With eventing, I’ve always taught myself to not rely to control a horse with my hands but to use my whole body. Then all of a sudden, I’ve been on very strong racehorses and realised that I actually need to really use my arms.
“It’s been a complete change of style for me.”
There was a slight bump in the road when May was unable to find a horse to ride but thankfully, she has found one in the shape of the Alan King-trained Manor Park, a five-year-old gelding who is owned by the McNeill Family and Niall Farrell.
“You ride the race a million times before you get there”
“I had the pleasure of going to ride him last week,” said May. “It was amazing to ride out for Alan King on his beautiful estate and then he asked me to ride second lot as well.”
With less than 24 hours to go until the big day, May is looking forward to taking part and will be well supported by her parents, Julian and Anne, her boyfriend and her sister at Newbury on Saturday.
She added: “I think my dad is more nervous than I am this stage but also very excited. Hopefully Jack Quinlan, my sister’s partner, will be coming up as well. He’s been amazing in the run-up as he’s found me the saddle, the weight cloth and I’ve borrowed a lot of his gear too!
“My sponsors Tattersalls, Ariat, Charles Owen and Long Melford Saddlery have been fantastic. Everyone at Peter O’Sullevan House have been amazing and really helpful too as well as Neil.
“You ride the race a million times before you get there and taking part at this stage will be fantastic. Winning would be the cherry on top.”
In order to compete in this race, each jockeys has to raise a total of £2,500 for Greatwood. If you would like to support Olivia, please visit her Just Giving page.