One of the first students to graduate from the Riding A Dream Academy, has been appointed Senior Trainee at the British Racing School.

Sixteen-year-old Aamilah Aswat,  who learned to ride at St James’s City Farm and Riding School and was supported by The Jockey Club, was part of the first group of students to graduate from the Academy’s Khadijah Mellah Scholarship in July and is currently completing a 12 week Foundation Course at the British Racing School.

“It is an honour to be made Senior Trainee and is something that I never expected,” Aamilah said. “Being at the Riding A Dream Academy was such a great stepping-stone for me to be at the British Racing School and I absolutely love it here, it’s like a second home. I am so excited and honoured to be given this opportunity.”

Aamilah has already undertaken extensive work experience in racing, starting out at Sophie Leech’s yard, before gaining experience at Kim Bailey’s and with former jockey Jason Maguire, both of whom have separately won the Grand National.

“My dream is to be a jump jockey and win the Grand National,” Aamilah said. “I started riding at the age of seven at St James’s in Gloucester and had my first pony race at 11 with the Pony Racing Authority. I found it so exciting – the fact that you’re on famous tracks, knowing that the best jockeys in the country have also ridden there is so exciting. I can’t wait to hopefully race professionally in the future.”

Khadijah Mellah, in whose name the Riding A Dream Academy was set up following her historic Magnolia Cup win, said she was thrilled to see Aamilah made Senior Trainee at the British Racing School.

“She is such a talent and, with all the other wonderful attributes she possesses, I can’t wait to see all the things she achieves in her career,” she said. “The Riding A Dream Academy was set up to support young people from diverse communities get into British horse racing and so to see one of our former Scholarship students to become Senior Trainee is incredible.

“The Academy’s aim is to help make racing more diverse and inclusive and with the Racing Foundation and our partners at the British Racing School we are helping to make this a reality.”

Aamilah’s dream is to win the Grand National. Credit: Alice Gough

Imran Atcha, who runs St James’s City Farm in Gloucester where Aamilah first learnt to ride said they were all incredibly proud of her.

“She has absolutely loved racing since she first started riding with us and it is wonderful to see her flourish and be recognised in this way,” he said. “She has overcome many challenges over the years to get this far and we can’t wait to see her at the races.”

Laura Stokes, Aamilah’s instructor at the British Racing School added that they were impressed with Aamilah’s attitude and talent and she was the “stand-out choice” for Senior Trainee.

“She is currently halfway through a twelve-week residential course and since joining us she has demonstrated herself to be a mature and responsible member of the team, working well with the other students,” she said. “She works hard in the yard, setting a good example to her peers.”

The role of Senior Trainee involves organising the other students in the hostel during block jobs and taking responsibility at feed time in the yard. Senior Trainees also act as a voice for the rest of the foundation students during meetings between senior trainees and British Racing School staff.

The Riding A Dream Academy was set up after Khadijah Mellah made history by becoming the first British Muslim woman to win a UK horse race. Funded by the Racing Foundation, it supports young people from diverse communities and disadvantaged backgrounds to get into racing. In its pilot year 74 percent of its students came from a diverse ethnic background.

Lead image by Alice Gough 

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