Student swaps high jump for horse racing

Team members Alice Watson, Annabelle Bates, James Alexander, Holly Mason and Lizze Moore.
Team members Alice Watson, Annabelle Bates, James Alexander, Holly Mason and Lizze Moore.

Former Queen Elizabeth Grammar School student Annabelle Bates has taken to the reins to learn to be a jockey in just six months for the ultimate showdown against rivals Oxford.

The Langton-by-Wragby girl and Cambridge student is preparing herself to go into battle in what has been compared to a ‘boat race with horses’.

Annabelle, 21, who is studying veterinary at the acclaimed university, has ridden horses since she was six years old but climbed onto a race horse for the first time in April - which she described as a completely different experience.

She signed up for the ‘Vision Varsity Horse Race’ after responding to an email inviting participants for the second year of the race and is now also its vice-captain.

The competition will be held on October 10 at Newmarket’s prestigious Rowley 

Five riders from Cambridge will compete over eight furlongs with five Oxford students.

Oxford and Cambridge Universities have a long history of competition in sport including rowing, cricket, rugby, football, golf, polo and tennis.

Describing the competition, Annabelle said: “Think boat race with horses and no cox!

“I was a bit dubious when I was filling out the application form. It was asking if I had any experience in horse-racing. I had to fill out ‘no’.

“I thought I was fit before but I have had to get really fit for this. I am a high jumper and the women’s captain but to train for this I’ve been riding six times a week and have been in the gym five times a week.

“I’d never done a press-up before this but you need to have a lot of upper body strength and I’ve been doing endless squats.

“When I started out it was a bit of a bumpy ride. Race horses are so much stronger and it was hard work controlling it at full speed.”

She has been getting to grips with racing under the guidance of Newmarket trainer John Ryan.

Last year’s event was also held at the Newmarket Racecourses on the famous Dubai Future Champions Day.

The race saw five riders from Cambridge and Oxford trained by coaches and ex-jockeys to become jockeys themselves.

Annabelle is hoping for victory for her team this year after Cambridge’s Kate Walters won the first event.