Forces horse racing season hit by cancellations

The military's horse racing season has been dealt a blow with the cancellation of two major events.

The Royal Artillery Gold Cup and the Grand Military Gold Cup, both usually held at Sandown racecourse in February and March, respectively, have each been cancelled.

Speaking to Forces News, Brigadier Simon Stockley, who is on the committee for the Grand Military Gold Cup, explained the cancellations.

"Racing is one of the sports that has continued during the pandemic," he said.

"Unfortunately, because of the current lockdown and the restrictions on elite sport only, and therefore the professional jockeys, it's meant that the British Horse Racing authorities have had to make the decision to suspend all amateur racing for the foreseeable future.

"The Grand Military Gold Cup falls into that. 

"Many of our military-serving riders are on duty at the moment - some of them supporting the pandemic itself.

"For us at the moment to be advocating them to be moving around the country, to be riding the various race horses and for the trainers that support them, and at the same time, going to Sandown for the big day but the other military racers that take place during the season. 

"It kind of wasn’t the right thing to do.

"We had to take the unfortunate decision to cancel this year."

Horse racing
In an interview with Forces News, Brigadier Simon Stockley explained why the races were cancelled.

The Brigadier also explained how a rider's fitness is part of the reason for the cancellations.

"Our military personnel are fit as a result of the nature of their duties but it is a really different type of fitness race riding," he said.

"If anyone wants to just get an idea of what it might feel like, balance on a ball, you know one of the balancing balls, and do that for about four minutes gripping with your legs to keep your balance.

"It gives you some sense of the challenge, but also for racing as well - it's not just about the physical attributes it requires to ride that horse over three miles.

"On top of that, there's a weight requirement as well so many of our jockeys will have to be around eleven stone or lower to ride in some of the military races.

"Of course, it also requires them to be quite disciplined with their diet as well as their exercise routine and then, of course, it's the opportunities to ride out with the current restrictions.

"When you consider all of those three elements, it just became too difficult for us to continue to proceed this season."

Despite missing out this year, the committee member is looking forward to the races in 2022 and hopes to see some memories like the end of the 2019 Grand Military Gold Cup.

"You only have to look at the last running of the race in 2019, where Victoria Sollitt on her own horse, which she trained herself as well, she's a Royal Naval officer, really nearly got upsides to win on a 150/1 chance and done it all herself against some highly-recognised trainers and jockeys with a lot more experience than her.

"It would have been great had she managed to win but hopefully, Vicky will be in the mix when we come back in 2022."

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