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The 12 Riders Taking Part in the St Patrick’s Day Derby

Cheltenham Racecourse today announced the names of the 12 riders that will take part in the St Patrick’s Day Derby at The Festival, in aid of Cancer Research UK. The Flat race, over one mile and five furlongs, takes place on Thursday, March 17. Henry Cecil, multiple Derby-winning trainer, will be the Guest of Honour for the first ever St Patrick’s Day Derby, run as the seventh race of the day at 5.15pm.

Commenting upon his involvement, Cecil said: “I was delighted and honoured to be invited by Cheltenham to get involved in the St Patrick’s Day Derby. I’ve always admired the wonderful sport at The Festival from afar, but this will be my first ever visit to the meeting and I am looking forward to sampling the atmosphere at first hand.

“Cancer is an illness that touches most families at some point and my family is no different, so it will be marvellous to be able to play a small part in helping to raise as much money as possible for Cancer Research UK, a charity which does so much to help the fight against this disease.”

The riders, six men and six women, selected from numerous applications, exhibit a wide range of equestrian skills and experience and represent both Britain and Ireland. The British competitors include Channel 4 presenter Alice Plunkett and local girl Chloe Bowkett, who works at Cheltenham Racecourse as an Events Manager. Ireland is represented by, among others, Grand National-winning trainer Gordon Elliott and Ruby Walsh’s brother-in-law Killian McCarthy.

Alice Plunkett expressed her delight at being selected. She said: “It's going to be an amazing thrill to ride round Cheltenham at The Festival and an honour to be raising money for such a worthwhile cause.”

The 12 riders taking part are:

Alice Plunkett (38, from Dorset), is a regular presenter on Channel 4 Racing and competed professionally herself in Three Day Events, representing Great Britain in the European Championships at under 21 level. As an amateur jockey Alice rode for Champion Trainer Martin Pipe and is the only woman to have ridden around the Grand National course and Badminton Horse Trials. Alice is married to Three Day Event rider William Fox-Pitt. Cancer Research UK is a charity close to Alice’s heart as her sisters, Katie and Eloise, both lost their lives to cancer before they were 30.

Gordon Elliott (33, Co Meath, Ireland), became the youngest ever trainer to win the Aintree Grand National when victorious with Silver Birch in 2007. Equally adept at training flat horses, Elliott won the Ebor Handicap at York Racecourse with Dirar in August, 2010. Gordon first entered the racing world at the age of 13 when he worked for Tony Martin at weekends and holidays which developed into a full time job. Gordon took out his amateur jockey’s licence at the age of sixteen and went on to win over 200 Point-to-Point races and 50 under rules in both Ireland and Britain. Gordon currently trains a string of horses at Capranny Stables, 40 minutes from Dublin.

Lorna Fowler (32, Newmarket), is a broadcast journalist and regular presenter for . Lorna grew up surrounded by horse racing as her mother, Sue Bradburne, is a trainer and brother, Mark Bradburne, a NH jockey. After studying English and Classics at Glasgow University she moved to Newmarket where she became known as the ‘voice of Newmarket’ through her job as MC on race days. Lorna has ridden in approximately 100 races both on the flat and over jumps and has recently married Harry Fowler, auctioneer and amateur jockey and the nephew of Jessica Harrington who trained Festival winner Moscow Flyer.

Killian McCarthy (32, Kildare, Ireland), has heard a few tales about riding at The Festival from his brother-in-law, Ruby Walsh and hopes to gain a few tips from the winning-most rider in Festival history. He works for software company SoftCo in Ireland and regularly rides out for father-in-law, Ted Walsh, whom he hopes will provide him with a horse to ride. Killian got first-hand experience of being in the Winner’s Enclosure at The Festival when leading up Daibiroun, who won for Nina Carberry in 2005, and is looking forward to being able to become part of the Walsh family’s rich history at Cheltenham.

Liz Ampairee (38, Surrey), runs her own Marketing and Management company, specialising in horse racing events. She regularly rides out for Roger Ingram at Epsom and Bob Buckler in the West Country. Liz project managed Richard Dunwoody’s South Pole expedition, 1000 Mile Challenge and recently joined him on his expedition to the Great Wall of China. Liz is currently working with Grand National winning jockey, Bob Champion, on the forthcoming Champions Legends Race at Aintree.

Guy O’Callaghan (25, Naas, Ireland), lives and works at Yeomanstown Stud in Co Kildare where he is involved first hand in the family business of breeding and pin-hooking. Guy has ridden for many different trainers in Ireland, England, France and New Zealand and is hoping his cousin, Michael O’Leary, owner of War of Attrition, will provide him with a horse to ride in the St Patrick’s Day Derby. Guy hopes to hear the roar of the Irish in the crowd as he climbs the famous Cheltenham hill.

Rachel Wyse (26, London), has represented Ireland in show jumping at Junior European level and takes part in eventing competitions. Rachel is currently based in London as a presenter with Sky Sports News having previously fronted an equestrian programme for them covering show jumping events. She began her television career on Irish programmes, including TV3's Irish motoring show Xcelerate. She's a graduate of the Institute of Art, Design and Technology in Dun Laoghaire, with a degree in Business Studies and Arts Management.

Andrew (Frostie) Kelly (30, Carlow, Ireland), can call on a wealth of experience he gained as an apprentice at Aiden O’Brien’s for five years, riding 19 winners on the Flat and over jumps. Frostie, as he is known to his friends, is now a jockey’s agent working with Davy Russell and Niall Madden among others

Rodger Sargent (39, London), works as an Advisor to Ila Security and has close links to the racing world. He has ridden in two charity races, at Market Rasen in 2004 and Fontwell in 2010. Rodger has experienced Festival glory with his horses Tikram and Top Cees and is hoping fellow owner, England footballer Michael Owen, might provide a horse for him to ride and come and support him on St Patrick’s Day. He rides out regularly for Gary Moore, at Ingleside Racing Stables in Sussex.

Niamh Flynn (28, Co Meath, Ireland), is a Marketing Executive for Tattersalls Ireland and took part in the Punchestown Charity Race last year. Niamh has gained valuable race riding experience in her job as a work rider for Derby winning trainer John Oxx. She has show jumped at top national level and worked for top International stars, Conor Swail and Cameron Hanley.

Chloe Bowkett (26, Gloucester), is an Events Manager at Cheltenham Racecourse. Chloe has taken part in Pony Club activities from the age of eight, is an experienced show jumper and event rider. Racing runs in her family’s blood, her father bred and owned steeplechaser, Shylock’s Retreat, who finished second in the Aintree Fox Hunters’ Chase.

Peter O’Reilly (49, Dublin, Ireland), Peter, who held an amateur licence during the 1980s and 90s, has personal motivation to ride in the St Patrick’s Day Derby and raise money for Cancer Research UK as his sisters have battled both breast and ovarian cancer and last year he lost his sister-in-law to lymphatic cancer. Approaching his 50th birthday Peter sees riding in the St Patrick’s Day Derby as the perfect way to celebrate his half century.

The Racecourse’s Managing Director, Edward Gillespie, said: “This will be the last time for several years that St Patrick’s Day is on a Festival race day and the occasion will be marked by a series of events and displays with a uniquely Irish feel. The Cheltenham team is hoping that the special charity race and the presence of Henry Cecil will add further interest to what is already a spectacular day of high-class Jump racing.

“It is a privilege for us to be welcoming Henry to The Festival for a Derby of a slightly different nature, especially one that is being run in aid of such a good cause.”

Jools Tait, Director of Partnerships of Cancer Research UK, added: “We are thrilled to be involved in this exciting addition to The Festival 2011.

“Last year’s charity race on Ladies Day helped us to raise over £150,000 at Cheltenham and, with the generous support of Henry Cecil, we are hoping to exceed that figure this year.

“The money raised will make a real difference to the vital work of our scientists, doctors and cancer patients both now and in the future. We wish all participants the best of luck and hope that they enjoy the day."

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