Military horse racing is on a current high, thanks to the back-to-back successes of Captain Guy Disney, winning this year’s Royal Artillery Gold Cup (17 February 2017) and Grand Military Gold Cup (10 March 2017) at London’s premier racecourse, Sandown Park. In 2015 Guy had his first ride under rules after losing a leg below the knee in an RPG attack on his vehicle in Afghanistan in 2009. Guy left the Army in December 2012 although post-injury he deployed to Afghanistan with his regiment, The Light Dragoons. Before being wounded, Guy had eight rides in jump races as an amateur and was 4th in Grand Military Gold Cup in 2007. Guy is the first recorded amputee to win a race under rules and his win resulted in widespread press coverage inside and outside the racing world. Following this year’s success, top racehorse trainer David Pipe said “Guy is an inspiration to me and to everyone. We all get wrapped in our worlds, me included, but this puts everything into context. The reception he got after winning was amazing”. The support for military jockeys from racehorse trainers and owners has never been better.

A rider hoping to emulate Guy, is Corporal Nathan Rahman, Royal Welsh, who recently came top of the amateur riders being assessed for their Amateur Rider’s Permit at the British Racing School. Nathan said: “I am hugely grateful to the support given to me from Team Ethos and the Grand Military committee in helping to obtain my licence as an amateur jump jockey. It has enabled me, while dividing my time on Regimental duties, to prepare for what I have found to be an incredible and demanding sporting experience. Sport is a fundamentally important part of military life; providing principles for good leadership and building strong teams”.

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Captain Guy Disney riding Rathlin Rose, owned by Colonel Hoare and Captains Wilkin Douglas & Doble and trained by David Pipe, wins the Grand Military Gold Cup at Sandown Park Racecourse on 10 March 2017

Military riders are highly motivated and physically and mentally fit and must be able to ride within a specified weight limit. This can entail months of physical and nutritional preparation and will include early mornings of riding out for trainers, as well as time spent in the gym and running, all on top of fulfilling a challenging ‘day job’.

Racing is a high-profile sport and it must be the only event at which servicemen and women can compete at the same venue as their professional counterparts. The military races appear on the same card as professional races and military jockeys will find themselves sitting next to Champion Jockey, Richard Johnson, as they change into their racing silks. HM The Queen is patron of the Grand Military Race Committee and HRH The Princess Royal attends the Grand Military Gold Cup every year. Both HRH The Prince of Wales and HRH The Princess Royal have ridden in the Grand Military Gold Cup and HM Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother was a winning owner of the Grand Military Gold Cup on no fewer than five occasions.

As with other sports where athletes compete at elite level, the financial outlay for military jockeys is significant both in terms of the qualifications they need to attain and the regular training they undertake. The funding jockeys receive from Team Ethos goes a significant way to offset these costs and turn their dream of riding a racehorse at 30mph over the 4’6” steeplechase fences at Sandown Park Racecourse into reality and maybe, just maybe, being led into the winner’s enclosure to receive their trophy from a member of The Royal Family.

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Captain Guy Disney rider of Rathlin Rose, owned by Colonel Hoare and Captains Wilkin Douglas & Doble and trained by David Pipe receives the winning rider’s trophy from HRH The Princess Royal, after winning the Grand Military Gold Cup at Sandown Park Racecourse on 10 March 2017

Images used with kind permission of Sandown Park Racecourse 

Published: 18 November 2017