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St Patrick’s Day Derby - Thursday March 15th 2012 

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St Patrick’s Day Derby Riders Announced
16/01/12

Cheltenham Racecourse has announced the 12 riders that will take part in the St Patrick’s Derby at The Festival, in aid of Cancer Research UK. The Flat race, over one mile and five furlongs, takes place on Thursday, March 15, run as the seventh race of the day at 5.15pm.

Over the past two years in excess of £400,000 has been raised for Cancer Research UK at The Festival and the charity race, won last year by broadcast journalist Lorna Fowler on the Sir Henry Cecil trained Plato, will be the centrepiece of the fundraising for Cancer Research UK on St Patrick’s Thursday.

The 12 jockeys for the 2012 charity race, selected from almost a hundred applications, represent riders from the length and breadth of Britain and Ireland with a wide range of equestrian skills. Competitors from England include the daughter of legendary trainer Ginger McCain and London Olympic Games hopeful Tina Cook. Wendy Normile, who works for the all conquering Coolmore Stud, is one of the riders representing Ireland and opera singer Shân Cothi will be flying the flag for Wales.

Joanne McCain, daughter of Grand National winning trainer Ginger, expressed her delight at being selected. She said: “I am thrilled and excited to have been picked to ride at The Festival. After losing Dad to cancer last year I feel honoured to be raising money for Cancer Research UK.”

The 12 riders taking part are:

Joanne McCain (44, from Cheshire), is the daughter of the late Ginger McCain, trainer of the legendary Red Rum who won the Aintree Grand National three times. Ginger, who sadly lost his battle with cancer in 2011, relinquished the training duties at Bankhouse to Joanne’s brother Donald in 2006. Donald quickly established himself as a leading trainer winning four Festival races and the 2011 Grand National with Ballabriggs. As a work rider for her brother Donald, Joanne will be practicing her race riding skills on some of the many Festival runners being prepared at Bankhouse stables in Cheshire. Joanne has been inspired to raise as much money as possible for Cancer Research UK as her son Toby lost one of his best friends to cancer last year, aged nine years old. Joanne, who has ridden since she was a child, currently acts as a Regional Education Officer for BHEST and passes on her knowledge of racing through the ‘Racing to Schools’ programme.

Wendy Normile (46, Co Tipperary, Ireland). As the assistant to the manager of the all- conquering Coolmore Stud in Ireland, Wendy’s day to day life is steeped in racing folklore. Coolmore Stud, established by John Magnier, Robert Sangster and Vincent O’Brien, has produced some of the leading sires in the racing world. Wendy rides out regularly for Mouse Morris in Fethard, close to the home of champions, and has gained valuable experience riding in charity races at Punchestown and the Curragh. Raising money for Cancer Research UK is a mission close to Wendy’s heart as her brother Alan Normile, who with his wife Lucy trained a string of race horses in Scotland, died from liver cancer in December, 2010, aged 36. Taking part in the race and raising funds for the charity is a small way to repay the care given to her brother during his short but tragic illness.

Niall Hannity (32, North Yorkshire), is a broadcast journalist for Racing UK and William Hill Radio. Niall grew up in Ireland where, as a child, he enjoyed going racing with his dad and grandad. Niall began his racing career by taking part in pony races and after spending a couple of summers at Ballydoyle with Aidan O’Brien he was offered a job with George Moore in Middleham where he worked from 1997 to 2005 before hanging up his boots in order to focus on his broadcast career. Niall is delighted to be back in the saddle and is embarking on a fitness programme in order to be race fit in time for The Festival in March which will include riding out at many of the top trainers’ yards.

Tina Cook (41, West Sussex), an accomplished International three-day event rider, grew up listening to stories of Cheltenham Festival glory told to her by her father, four-time champion jockey Josh Gifford. Tina was just 11 years old when her father trained Aldaniti to win the Grand National in 1981 ridden by Bob Champion, who had recovered from cancer in order to ride in the race. Tina soon became a proficient equestrian in her own right, winning individual and team bronze medals in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing on her horse Minor’s Frolic. Tina and Minor’s Frolic went on to win the 2009 European individual title and team gold at the 2010 World Equestrian Games. Tina, mother to Isabelle, six, and Harry, four, is determined to be part of the GB Three-Day Eventing team at the London Olympics this summer. Tina rides out daily at the family yard in Findon where her brother Nick Gifford trains.

Lindsey Hunting (28, Worcestershire), experiences first-hand the ravages of cancer from her work as a nurse at Worcester Royal Hospital and knows the ups and downs of the life of a jockey from her partner Paddy Brennan, winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2010 on Imperial Commander. Lindsey was encouraged to enter the race by Paddy who knows how magical it is to ride at The Festival. Lindsey has ridden most of her life, taking part in pony club events and has recently been gaining experience riding out at her local racing stables.

Niall Cronin (25, Co Kildare, Ireland), is looking forward to riding at The Festival in front of his mother who has recently undergone treatment for breast cancer. Niall lives and works in Ireland but will be making the annual trip to The Festival working as racing correspondent for the Evening Herald. Although only learning to ride four years ago, Niall has not wasted any time in notching up winners, being successful for the last two years in the charity race at the Punchestown Festival in his homeland. Many Irish eyes will be smiling if Niall is able to live out his dream and ride a winner at The Festival.

Angelica O’Brien (38, Cheltenham), known to her friends as Jelly, should know her way around the racecourse as she has ridden around the Prestbury track twice as an amateur jockey. Jelly’s life revolves around racing, successfully training a stable of point to pointers and assisting her husband Fergal O’Brien in his new venture as a fully-fledged trainer. Fergal spent almost two decades as assistant to Nigel Twiston-Davies, where he oversaw the training of two Grand National winners, Earth Summit and Bindaree, and the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Imperial Commander. Jelly rode about 15 winners as an amateur, including the prestigious Horse & Hound Cup at Stratford racecourse.

Shân Cothi (46, Cardiff, Wales). Welsh opera singer, actress and presenter, made her television acting debut playing the role of Davina Roberts in the highly successful drama series ‘Con Passionate’ for Channel 4 Wales and her BAFTA award winning music series was nominated for the best music programme at the Montreux Festival. Among other career highlights Shân has performed the role of Carlotta in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s West End production of The Phantom of the Opera and she led the singing of the national anthem in front of 72,000 spectators at an international football match at the Millennium Stadium. Since the tragic loss of her husband, Justin Smith aged 42, to pancreatic cancer in 2007, Shân launched her charity 'Amser Justin Time' (Pancreatic Cancer Charity Wales - www.amserjustintime.org) and has been very active in raising money for cancer charities. Following Justin’s death, Shân immersed herself in horse riding and rides out for Scottish Grand National-winning trainer Tim Vaughan who will provide her with a horse for the St Patrick’s Derby.

James Hughes (23, Doncaster), works as a scrap metal trader for Universal Recycling and has close links to the racing world through his parents who have horses in training with Ferdy Murphy at Wynbury Stables, in North Yorkshire . James is an accomplished rider who has represented Great Britain in the under 21 showjumping team and competed at national level. James loves racing and it has always been an ambition of his to take part in a race.

Candida Baker (41, Hants), is married to trainer George Baker who trains at the historic Whitsbury Manor Racing Stables in Hampshire, where the iconic chaser Desert Orchid was trained. Candida, a mother of two children Barney aged 9 and Tallulah aged 7 - assists her husband in the day-to-day running of the stables and looks forward to the support of her many friends and owners who will enjoy following her campaign.

Stuart Parr (26, Merseyside), is a fire fighter with the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service. Stuart has ridden all his life including riding out at Donald McCain’s yard and working as a rider and groom for the Greater Manchester Police & Merseyside Police Mounted Sections. Stuart credits Patricia Caldwell, wife of trainer Terry Caldwell, as the inspiration behind him becoming so involved in racing as she provided him with lots of opportunity to learn. Due to Patricia very sadly losing a battle with cancer recently and his mother being diagnosed with cancer nine months ago, Stuart was inspired to take part in the charity race. Becoming more tied to his career with the fire service, sometimes working 80 hours a week, Stuart saw this as his last chance to ride competitively. The Festival is one place he has never visited and is looking forward to being there.

Gina Bryce (28, London), joined the racing channel At The Races as a Presenter after graduating from Cambridge University and winning a place on the Darley Flying Start training course. She also works as a presenter for Timeform Radio and combines a broadcast career with freelance writing for leading industry titles such as the Racing Post, The Irish Field and Thoroughbred Owner & Breeder magazine. Gina is a regular exercise rider for John Berry having ridden out in the past for Paul Cole, Michael Bell and Willie Musson. She hopes to ride the David Pipe-trained On Khee in the St Patrick's Derby and hopes to improve on her only previous ride in public when she missed the break by 25 lengths!

Cheltenham Racecourse’s Managing Director, Edward Gillespie, said: “We have been delighted with the success of the charity race over the last two years which has raised an amazing amount of money for Cancer Research UK. The riders that take part have been seriously competitive and the race has proved a popular addition to what is already a spectacular day of high-class Jump racing”.

Frances Milner, Director of Supporter Led Fundraising at Cancer Research UK, added: “We are truly delighted to be involved in this very special charity event at The Festival. Last year, with the generous support of Sir Henry Cecil, the charity race on St Patrick’s Day at Cheltenham helped us to raise a staggering £250,000 for our lifesaving research. We’re really looking forward to yet another successful race this year.

“The money raised through the charity flat race and our wider partnership with the racecourse will make a real difference to the vital work of our scientists, doctors and nurses, who work tirelessly to discover new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer. We wish all of the participants the best of luck and hope that they enjoy the day".

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