By Steve Jones
VICTORIA RACING CLUB ambassador Georgia Connolly had the time of her life riding in the prestigious Magnolia Cup at Goodwood.
The daring dash down 1,100m of England’s most beautiful racecourse raised more than $300,000 for medical research charity Wellbeing Of Women.
Georgia lined up alongside 11 other female amateur riders, including Olympic cycling gold medallist Victoria Pendleton, British model Rosie Tapner and Irish TV personality Vogue Williams, in the race held on Ladies’ Day at the Glorious Goodwood summer festival meeting.
The accomplished eventer and dressage rider – the first Australian to ride in the Magnolia Cup - was easy to spot in bespoke silks created by fashion designer Mary Katrantzou.
Riding useful sprinter Harry Hurricane – renamed Gallant Trade for the day – she threw down a strong challenge on the stands’ side before fading into midfield behind fairytale winner Khadijah Mellah. The 18-year-old student hadn’t sat on a racehorse before April and learned to ride at an inner-city riding school in south London.
Georgia has more of a racing background. She has been riding since she was three-years-old and her family have owned shares in a number of racehorses, notably Maythehorsebewithu. He finished fifth in the 2001 Lexus Melbourne Cup.
Georgia, 30, said: “I had a ball – I think I can still feel the blood pumping across my body. I wish it was a dress rehearsal and I could go again.
“There was a moment when I thought ‘I’ve got the grandstand rail, no one’s in this lane, this is it’.
“Harry was cruising along, taking me there right on the bridle and I thought I might sneak it. It was looking good for me.
“Just as we were getting to the two-furlong mark (400m) I suddenly felt him start to run out of fuel. It was like that little cough of a car when you’re on the last vapours of fuel.
“I was shouting ‘go Harry, go Harry’ but then I saw Khadijah in the corner of my eye. I could hear the tears as she came past me – she was already crying.”
It was an emotional time for all the riders having trained for up to a year to prepare for riding the undulations of one of England’s trickiest tracks.
Georgia added: “It was enormous challenge. There’s been times when I thought I’d bitten off more than I could chew and there’s been times when I felt like giving up.
“I’m so glad I stuck with it. The buzz I’ve got out of it is second to none.
“It’s a great event, a great cause and the rest of the girls have been lovely. They’ve treated us like royalty.
“I never thought that this was something I would do in my entire life. It’s something on my bucket list that I didn’t know was there but I’ve ticked it off now.
“We don’t have anything like this in Australia – not yet. I’ll have to talk to our wonderful chairman Amanda Elliott and see what she thinks.”
Despite being on the other side of the world, Georgia had plenty of support. Her sister Caitlin, who lives in London, made sure she was at the track to cheer her on and her cousin Laine flew in from New York. Laine’s twin brother Matt surprised Georgia by jetting over from Australia.”
VRC Chairman Amanda Elliott was also in the support party at Goodwood.
Mrs Elliott said: “We couldn’t be prouder of Georgia. She rode a fantastic race on a terrific horse for a very good cause. She represented us magnificently in all aspects of this day.
“We are delighted to be part of something that was not only great fun but is supporting a very worthy cause in Wellbeing of Women.
“And what an incredible victory by Khadijah, an 18-year-old Londoner who had never ridden a racehorse until early this year. It really was a stunning result.”