A student from the Riding a Dream Academy will line up in this year’s Markel Magnolia Cup at Goodwood Racecourse on (1 August), five years after Khadijah Mellah made history by winning the same race in 2019.

Aamilah Aswat, 18, from Gloucester was one of the first students to join the Riding a Dream Academy which was set up after Khadijah’s victory to support other young people from diverse ethnic backgrounds into British horse racing.

She first learned to ride at St James’s City Farm in Gloucester aged six and participated in pony races with the Pony Racing Authority from age 11. At 16 she won a place on the Khadijah Mellah Scholarship, the Riding a Dream Academy’s flagship programme where, over the course of a year, young people learn to ride and look after racehorses and develop their knowledge of British racing.

Aamilah has since graduated from the Foundation Course at the British Racing School and now works for Grand National winning trainer, Kim Bailey.

“Ever since I was a little girl I have dreamt of being a jockey so to be taking part in this year’s Magnolia Cup is a dream come true and very surreal,” said Aamilah. “I have ridden in pony races before, but to have the opportunity to ride at Goodwood and in such an amazing race, is such a privilege. I’m going in with no expectations and no pressure – I just want to enjoy the whole experience.”

Khadijah Mellah, one of the co-founders of the Riding a Dream Academy, became the first British Muslim woman to win a UK horse race when landing the Magnolia Cup in 2019.

“We are so excited that Aamilah is taking part in this year’s Magnolia Cup,” she said. “Our ambition when we set up the Riding a Dream Academy was to support other young people from diverse ethnic communities and urban equestrian centres into racing and so to see one of our students riding in the same race which changed my life and kickstarted this whole incredible journey is very emotional.

“I am looking forward to supporting Aamilah on her journey, letting her know what to expect and making sure she enjoys every minute of the experience.”

Aamilah said riding in the Magnolia Cup is a dream come true. Credit: Alice Gough

Naomi Lawson, co-founder of the Academy added: “It was such a joy to have Aamilah on our first ever Scholarship course at the Academy and she was one of our stand-out talents.

“We are very proud of the fact that to date, 75% of our Scholarship students have, like Aamilah, gone onto full-time work in a racing yard or work experience in the industry and for us to have our first ever race-rider is another massive landmark in the Academy’s history.”

Goodwood racecourse have also announced today that going forwads they will offer a place in the Markel Magnolia Cup every year to a student of the Riding a Dream Academy.

“We will never forget the day Khadijah won the Markel Magnolia Cup in 2019 and it is exciting to have Aamilah as a student from the Academy, that was set up as a result of Khadijah’s achievements, in this year’s race,” said Adam Waterworth, Managing Director of Goodwood. “We are looking forward to welcoming many more riders from the Riding A Dream Academy in years to come and helping to broaden diversity and inclusion within the sport.”

The Markel Magnolia Cup has raised £2.4 million for charitable causes since its inception. Fundraising has now begun for the 2024 Markel Magnolia Cup via Just Giving here.

Lead image by Alice Gough

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