Get in touch: send your photos, videos, news & views by texting YORK to 80360 or send an email»
Charity jockey John Powell loving life in saddle
THREE months ago, John Powell hadn’t sat on a donkey never mind a racehorse.
But in August, the York-born syndicate manager will experience something for which most horseracing fans would happily trade a limb – he will ride on Newmarket’s famous July course in a special charity race.
The 41-year-old, who runs EPDS Racing, is one of a handful of lucky participants, including the actor Nathaniel Parker, asked by charity Racing Welfare to saddle up for a contest – the Horsemen & Heroes Charity Race – over a mile on August 18.
Powell, an exiled Yorkie who grew up in Dringhouses before moving away from the city at the age of 28, can’t wait to get onto the track.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Powell, whose newest addition to his racing stable, Homer Run, is set to run at Hexham tomorrow. “I bought the horse I am going to ride in the race at Ascot sales.
“I went to trainer Seamus Mullins to look at Homer Run, who we also bought there, and I spotted a little chestnut. Seamus told me he didn’t finish off his races but I was looking for a charity horse and he was perfect.
“He’s called Benozzo Gozzoli. He’s named after a 15th Century Italian painter.”
EPDS Racing, who have horses with Wiltshire’s Simon Earle, is a newly formed National Hunt partnership set up by Powell that aims to train as “holistically” as possible.
In practice, that means horses being turned out with others, given a fibre-based feed and a varied training regime.
The syndicate has also promised that horses will be re-homed once their careers are over.
“We wanted to run a syndicate as ethically as possible,” explained Powell. “It is important to us that they are treated as horses that race rather than animals that have no other purpose.
“We re-home them and we also work with Racing Welfare in sponsoring prizes for stable staff.
“I was at Warwick and Richard Negus, of the charity, said there was this charity race and that I was taking part in it. I said I can’t ride and that I hadn’t even sat on a horse never mind a racehorse. So a lot of lessons have ensued.
“I have loved every second of it. I started out at a local riding school and they were brilliant. They put me on a horse called Hippo and he was as wide as the name suggests. He wasn’t likely to throw me off.
“I am on racehorses now. I have been at the British Racing School in Newmarket and they put me on one for the first time.”
Of the difference he experienced when sitting on a racehorse for the first time having mastered the basic skills, Powell added: “It’s like driving a Mini and a Ferrari.
“At the moment, I’m riding a Ferrari with ABS rather than a Lamborghini.
“The difference is night and day. Learning to ride is a great feeling.
“The culmination of that is sitting on a thoroughbred and feeling the power. It is fantastic. You come back, after riding one of them, with a massive grin on your face.”
Powell is riding out at Earle’s yard in Warminster three times a week and is now counting down the days until he can step out onto the July course.
“I am very much looking forward to it,” he said. “It is fairly daunting but I have gone so far to get to this stage and it has been brilliant.”
Berkshire may now be home for Powell, who runs a consultancy business when not dabbling in turf matters, but he has strong ties with the Minster city and warm memories of growing up here.
“I have very fond memories of York,” he said. “I remember walking home from Nunthorpe School across to the racecourse. They used to let you in for free in the course enclosure for the last couple of races and we would stop on the way home from school.
“The first time I went I had a 7-2 winner. I love York and I do miss it. My family are from York, I used to captain the Retreat Cricket Club and my mother and sister still play for City of York Hockey Club.”
For information on shares in horses or Racing Club membership with EPDS Racing, log on to www.epds-racing.co.uk or e-mail email@example.com.
Readers can give donations, or leave messages of support, for Powell in his charity race by logging on to www.justgiving.com/John-Powell2