Amateur rider Laura Gibson-Brabazon was left on cloud nine yesterday (Saturday 27th August) after swapping greeting winners to riding one when securing what she hailed as an “unbelievable” success with victory aboard Goldencard on her Newmarket Town Plate debut.
The 31 year old, who is the Partnerships Account Manager for The Jockey Club at Newmarket Racecourses, was given a warm reception by friends and colleagues that gathered around the July Course winner’s enclosure after steering the 11-4 chance to glory in the 352nd renewal of the race which was inaugurated by King Charles II in 1666.
Despite only sitting aboard the Christian Williams-trained gelding for the first time last weekend, the pair hit it off straight away when getting up late on to score by less than half a length and consign Stripe Of Honour (partnered by farrier Jon Day) to the runner-up spot for the second year running.
With little to separate the first two Gibson-Brabazon revealed it was only after she checked the result with security guards on the track that she realised she had won the historic race, which was run in memory of 1959 winner and former trainer Julie Cecil who passed away in April aged 80.
Gibson-Brabazon said: “I didn’t realise I won going past the post as everything was blocked out. I knew it was a photo finish or something of sorts.
“I pulled him up and turned him around and they called the winner and I still couldn’t hear the outcome.
“I came back down to the track and there were security guards there and I said was it number five that was called out. They were giving the thumbs up then I started celebrating. It was just unbelievable.
“I’ve been at The Jockey Club since October and I have had huge support for this. It has been fabulous working here and I’ve met so many good people and this is a great way to finish off the summer season.
“I’m so grateful for everyone that helped me as I really pushed myself to do this as well. Working here racing at weekends then finding time to get this done has been tough but this is fabulous.”
Charting a wide route throughout the race, which was staged over two miles opposed to its traditional three and three quarter miles due to a lack of rainfall on the round course, Gibson-Brabazon admitted she enjoyed the perfect trip around on the nine year old.
She continued: “He was an easy ride. I’d ridden him once before down at Christian’s last weekend and he was a bus to ride.
“I sat on him and he hacked down really nice and he was really calm. We set off and got in a nice position and he sat comfortably in behind.
“We got around the bend with a mile to go to home. I know we still had half the race to go but I had so much left in my tank still. He kept travelling and cruising.
“We got to three out and I just dropped in and kicked on. I was looking to my right and I could see someone coming upsides me and I saw that I needed to keep going and thankfully he did.”
Riding racehorses is nothing new to Gibson-Brabazon who for the past six years has ridden out for Newmarket-based trainer Charlie Fellowes. However she admits it was only over the past 12 months that she aspired to ride in the Town Plate.
She added: “Last year I had notions that I wanted to do something like this and I met Christian back at Cheltenham through Matt Hall who has acted as my agent this summer and he set me up with Goldencard and I was so grateful for Deva Racing for lending me the horse.
“I got into Peter O’Sullevan House (the Injured Jockeys Fund’s rehabilitation and fitness centre in Newmarket) and I’ve been training there for two and a half months. Michael Hills has been giving me jockey coaching lessons and whether you could tell at the finish line I don’t know!
“I’ve been doing personal training classes at lunch time then getting back to the office and helping to deliver race days at the weekend. I don’t know how I’m still going!”
Having received a taste of victory Gibson-Brabazon, who received The Golding Perpetual Challenge Plate, a silver photo frame, a £125 Golding voucher and a box of celebrated Newmarket sausages, is already looking forward to defending her title next year.
She added: “It was so much fun and I’d love to do something like this again.
“There is an amateur ladies charity race at York where you can win your weight in champagne so I think I might have a go at that next.”
Among those to congratulate Gibson-Brabazon after the race was Welsh-based handler Williams, who insisted he was only too happy to support her efforts by supplying Goldencard.
He said: “I know her through a good friend of mine Matt Hall. She obviously works in racing and works hard for our sport so it is great to give her a day like this on one of our horses.
“We do well with staying chasers and when they changed the distance we thought we might be in trouble but the horse stayed on nicely which was brilliant.
“I’m delighted for her and it was great to see all those in the race have a day out riding at Newmarket on a Saturday. A good crowd stayed to watch it so it brilliant all round for them.”