With the Cheltenham Festival kicking off today (12 March), local primary school children have been given the exciting opportunity to meet a trio of racing legends. The 75 youngsters met Richard Johnson, Rachael Blackmore and Sir AP McCoy yesterday (11 March), for the second edition of ‘Festival Monday’.

The initiative was started in 2023 by The Jockey Club and Racing to School, and welcomes five local schools to Cheltenham for their own special preview day. Pupils from schools within a two mile radius meet on the historic track to experience the racecourse from a different perspective.

This year was particularly special as the racecourse celebrates 100 years of The Gold Cup.

“This day is a real launch pad for the Festival and its strong connection with the local community,” said John Blake, CEO of Racing to School. “Jam packed full of activity and access that most racing fans would die for – the impeccably behaved young people were wide-eyed as they asked questions and learned riding tips and weighting room secrets from champion jockeys Richard Johnson and Tony McCoy, and frantically rummaged in their school bags for scraps of paper to capture the autograph of Rachael Blackmore.

“Throw in a meeting with the jumping hero Smad Place and inclusion in a group photo with many legendary riders that have clinched Gold over the years, and Festival Monday must surely be the best school trip ever.”

The groups learned about the history and importance of the Festival and posed for photos with the Gold Cup.

They were inspired by Rachael’s remarkable career, being the first woman to win both the Gold Cup and the Grand National, earning the accolade of leading rider at the Festival in 2021. Rachael encouraged the pupils to find a passion in life and go for it, just as she has done in the saddle.

One pupil who attended the day said: “It was so fun! I loved going on the mechanical horse and we met Rachael who is a jockey and she might win a race this week.”

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