Local children were treated to a sporting masterclass at Aintree Racecourse when female football stars and a boxing hero joined Randox Grand National winning jockey Rachael Blackmore at the iconic venue.
Around 40 local children had the chance to have a kickabout with Liverpool footballers Leighanne Robe and Niamh Fahey, as well as several players from the women’s academy side.
Also on hand was World Champion boxer Natasha Jonas, who took time out from preparations for her title fight in Liverpool next month to spend some time with the youngsters.
Those lucky enough to take part in the session, which took place on Thursday (August 18th) were a mixture of young players at the Liverpool academy and those taking part in the Trevor Hemmings Learn to Ride Summer School, organised by Toxteth-based Park Palace Ponies and The Jockey Club.
Students at the summer school were then joined in their riding lesson by superstar jockey Rachael Blackmore, who was on hand to give them some pointers in the saddle.
After becoming the first female jockey to win the Randox Grand National on Minella Times in 2021, Blackmore created yet more history when winning the Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup on A Plus Tard in March.
Speaking about the opportunity to help support the summer school, Blackmore said: “Park Palace Ponies is a fantastic initiative and it’s brilliant that the Trevor Hemmings Foundation is getting behind it.
“To see the joy on a child’s face when they get on a pony for the first time is just incredible. There were two sisters this morning who had never seen a pony before – let alone ridden one – so to see the excitement in their faces was amazing.
“For kids living in cities, they might never get the opportunity to ride a pony. That’s why days like today are so important, they give the kids a chance to ride and interact with the animals and that might just spark something within them. It might not even be as a rider, maybe though it will encourage them and give them an appetite to think about even working with horses – that can only be a good thing for the industry.
“I grew up on a farm and feel very privileged that I had ponies to ride from a young age. I’m so lucky to have grown up where I did in that respect, I think it’s very important for a child to have the opportunity to spend time with animals in any sense. Horses are incredible animals, there’s something about them that puts people at ease and they seem to just strike a chord with people.”
Blackmore, Jonas, Robe and Fahey with some of the youngsters.
Park Palace Ponies founder Bridget Griffin dreams of one day producing a Grand National-winning jockey from her programme and when asked whether it could one day happen, Blackmore pointed out that anything is possible.
She added: “You never know what can happen when someone is given a chance. I started riding when I was two or three but there are plenty of equine professionals who don’t start until their late teens.
“There are no rules to it really. There is talent out there and having this sort of thing available to kids might just spark something. It would be a fantastic story if one of the kids here went on to even ride in a race let alone win one here and I’m sure it will happen!”