21st September 2015 – The five-person teams for the 2015 Vision Varsity Horse Race at Newmarket’s Rowley Mile Racecourse on Saturday, 10th October were announced today with James Alexander captaining the defending champions, Cambridge University, and Alice Stables leading the way for Oxford University.
The ten-horse one mile contest will be run as the first race on day two of the Dubai Future Champions Festival, a two-day Festival which boasts total prize money of over £2 million and features Europe’s two richest Group 1 two-year-old races, the Dubai Dewhurst Stakes and the Dubai Fillies’ Mile.
All the riders are current students at Britain’s two top universities and many of them had never ridden a racehorse before training for this race began in the spring.
Alexander is the only person on either side to have taken part in last year’s inaugural Vision Varsity Horse Race. He finished fourth aboard Harry Bosch, helping his Cambridge side to a resounding victory in the team competition.
James Alexander, captain of the Cambridge team for the Vision Varsity Horse Race, said;
“Riding in last year’s race was an incredible. It was very nerve-wracking, especially on the way to the start when at one point I thought that I might fall off, but once I got down to the start it was as if a switch had been flipped and I was able to concentrate
on doing my thing.”
“I don’t remember a great deal about the race but I do remember the cheers starting to build as we reached the two furlong marker and once I was past the post I became aware of a crescendo of noise coming from behind me.”
“The support that we got was unbelievable and I’ve got a great team behind me again this year – all four of my teammates have done a huge amount of work.”
“The last few months have been pretty intense as I have been getting up at 5.30am to ride out in Newmarket and then rushing back to Cambridge in time for the start of the day. At times I have been doing 60-hour weeks at the Veterinary School on top of my training, so I’ve had to sacrifice sleep and my social life has been non-existent.”
“Any Oxbridge student will tell you that in sporting terms the Varsity Match is the biggest thing and with me, as with most other people, it will represent the pinnacle of my sporting career.”
“It’s all about the team competition and seeing Cambridge finish ahead of Oxford. I would happily finish stone last as long as my teammates lift the trophy.”
Alice Stables, captain of the Oxford team for the Vision Varsity Horse Race, said;
“I am very excited about the Vision Varsity Horse Race and our team tactics are going to be simple – just win!”
“I have ridden a little since I was very small but my main involvement with horses has been through carriage driving.”
“A friend of mine was captain of the Oxford team last year and when I came along to support her it was the first time that I had ever set foot on a racecourse. I was blown away by the whole event – to be honest I was really jealous – and as soon as the e-mail was sent out earlier this year asking for competitors I was straight in there.”
“Since April I have been riding out two or three times a week for Sylvester Kirk and for my initial visit to his yard I got up at 6.45am on a Saturday morning just as my friends were getting in from a night out. When I got on a racehorse for the first time that morning I was absolutely terrified.”
“I have also been getting tuition on the equicizer [mechanical horse] from former jockey John Reid. The first try on the equicizer was phenomenally painful and I only lasted for about 20 seconds, but that inspired me to get fit.”
Amy Starkey, Regional Director, Jockey Club Racecourses East Region, said;
“Following the success of last year, the 2015 Vision Varsity Horse Race is set to be another great occasion which will launch a fantastic afternoon on the second day of the inaugural Dubai Future Champions Festival.”
“The team members are all very enthusiastic about the task in hand and have obviously worked very hard to get to where they are now. Talking with them all about their training to date has been fascinating and Newmarket Racecourses and Dubai are extremely thankful to all the trainers involved who have been so accommodating with the students.”
“The inaugural Dubai Future Champions Festival is going to be a fantastic couple of days and we are very grateful for the generous and continuous support of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.”
Holly Mason, Cambridge team member, said;
“I come from an eventing background and I simply didn’t realise how physically demanding and tough technically riding a racehorse was going to be.”
Alice Thompson, Oxford team member, said;
“The biggest challenge is your fitness. You just cannot imagine how much strength you need to be able to ride in a race.”
Anni Bates, Cambridge team member, said;
“I’ve been riding out six times a week for Newmarket trainer John Ryan and I have the reputation of the yard to uphold as it produced the winner of last year’s race.”
“Although I’ve been around horses since I was six, I’ve found that I’ve really had to commit to the race with lots of riding and time in the gym.”
Kacper Pancewicz, Oxford team member, said;
“I’ve done a bit of polo, dressage and showjumping before but this is something else – racing has nothing to do with those disciplines other than the fact that a horse is involved. The position that you ride in is completely different.”
Alice Watson, Cambridge team member, said;
“I had a really rocky start as when I began riding thoroughbreds in the spring I was coming back from breaking my wrist after falling off a horse. The first time that I got on a racehorse was absolutely terrifying – trying to hold a racehorse when your wrist isn’t working properly is pretty difficult.”
Lizzy Moore, Cambridge team member, said;
“You’ve got to be mentally ready to put the hours in, including lots of early mornings. Our aim is to try to make the Vision Varsity Horse Race become like the Boat Race – it obviously hasn’t got that kind of history but we are doing all we can to try and develop it.”
About The Vision Varsity Horse Race
Following the successful launch of the Varsity Horse Race in 2014 the newly sponsored Vision Varsity Horse Race will be contested at Newmarket’s Rowley Mile Racecourse on Saturday, 10th October; the second and final day of the inaugural Dubai Future Champions Festival.
The historic sporting rivals Oxford and Cambridge Universities will battle it out once again over the straight mile course to see who can claim this year’s crown. In 2014 Cambridge’s Kate Waters stormed down the stand side rail aboard Ocean Applause to take victory for the Cambridge team. Will it be the light blue of Cambridge again or will the dark blues of Oxford be crowned champions for the first time?
Jockey Coaches Michael Tebbutt and John Reid have been overseeing training at the British Racing School in Newmarket and Oaksey House in Lambourn where fitness assessments have been conducted and riding techniques honed on equicizers. The riders have then been applying their theoretical knowledge to the gallops riding out for various trainers up and down the country.
Newmarket Racecourses has been generously supported by Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, allowing all those in full time education with a valid NUS card, free tickets to a fabulous day’s racing.
The second running will take place before a top quality card, which features both the Group 1 £500,000 Dubai Dewhurst Stakes and the 177th renewal of the £250,000 Betfred Cesarewitch Handicap not to mention four other stakes races. This year’s running will also be shown on Channel 4 Racing for the first time.
To see last year’s renewal of the race, please visit http://po.st/Varsity2014
Notes to Editors
Each university is represented by a squad of riders who train over six months for a chance to ride in the Vision Varsity Race. Five riders will make up a final team and the selection process is done following an assessment to ensure that they are race fit. Biographies on the current squads are as follows:
Oxford Team Biographies
Alice Stables - Captain
Oxford team captain Alice was inspired to participate in this year’s Varsity Race having witnessed the inaugural running of the event in 2014. An economics and management student, Alice is currently completing a placement with premier accountancy firm Deloitte’s and intends to qualify as a chartered account following her undergraduate graduation. Alice’s involvement with horses comes usually from the sphere of carriage driving in which she has successfully competed from a young age. Currently riding out for Sylvester Kirk, Alice is keen to transfer her driving expertise to riding prowess and lead her team to victory in October.
Bruno Steinkraus is a final year postgraduate student of Biochemistry. Born in Hamburg, Bruno has been riding since the age of six on his family’s farm where his father cross-breeds Hanoverian with English Thoroughbreds. A mature student at aged 24, Bruno has numerous interests including Ashtanga Yoga and world travel. He is currently riding out for Geoffrey Deacon to ensure he is race fit and ready for October.
Coming from a non-equine background Alice’s first ride was aboard the donkeys of Weston Super Mare near Bristol where she grew up. Alice subsequently fell in love with horses and has loaned numerous ponies while at school before acquiring her own horse Toby seven years ago. Alice has experience in the dressage field as well as southern hemisphere horses having spent part of her gap year working with young brumbies at Mount Mulligan Station in Australia. The Vision Varsity Race won’t be Alice’s first foray into the Thoroughbred world as she previously worked for Phillip Hobbs at Sandhill in the summer of 2009. A biologist at Lady Margaret Hall, Alice is keen to ensure Oxford captures the Bearsted Trophy this year.
Kacper has been fortunate enough to live in numerous places around the world before settling in the beautiful city of Oxford where he is studying Mathematics at Kellogg College. Born in Warsaw Kacper subsequently moved to Dubai for a number of years where he recalls riding “some of the best horses in my equestrian career” including both Thoroughbred and Arabian horses. Whilst at Oxford University Kacper, who already possesses a strong background in dressage and show jumping, was introduced to the world of polo which he now plays regularly. Kacper has been riding out for Lambourn based trainer Jamie Osborne.
A native of France, Caroline is currently an undergraduate student at Oxford University. Spending her summer holidays at home, Caroline is training for the Vision Varsity Race in Deauville with former jockey turned trainer Yann Barberot. Caroline is training hard, waking up at half past five in time to pull out first lot and is riding a combination of colts, fillies, juveniles and older horses which she hopes will strengthen her skills to claim her place in the team.
Sally has travelled across the Atlantic to study History of Art at St Catherine’s College. Possessing the most varied equestrian experience of the Oxford squad, Sally can turn her hand to hunting, eventing, show jumping, polo, western and sidesaddle riding. She is now attempting to add race-riding to her extensive CV and has sited her dream as pulling away from the rest of the field on the Rowley Mile. A representative of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Sally is also an accomplished cook and artist, spending her free time enjoying the sunshine and eating ice cream.
Tom is a fourth year Classicist at St Benet's Hall. His riding career began doing Pony Club with the Royal Artillery and he has recently focused on hunting with the Old Berks. Last season, he competed in the Old Berks Hunt Race and the Harborough Ride making his ambition to ride in the Varsity Race even greater. Tom has been riding out for Michael Blanshard and Charles Hills, both Lambourn based trainers.
Cambridge Team Biographies
James Alexander - Captain
James will captain this year’s Cambridge Varsity Team having participated in the inaugural running of the race last year. A fifth year veterinary student at Robinson College, James has acquired equine knowledge from various spheres over the years. He has competed nationally in Modern Pentathlon competitions as well as Pony Club finals in the Tetrathlon and Endurance fields. Trainer Gay Kelleway put him up last year on Harry Bosch and he continues to train with Gay for the 2015 renewal.
A humanities student of Geography at St John’s College, Holly’s equine career has been forged with her beloved eventer Molly who she competed to BE Novice level with. Holly who says she has always had a bit of a need for speed couldn’t believe her luck when she heard about the Vision Varsity Race. While at university Holly has diversified her sporting interests having taken up Modern Pentathlon as well as coxing a college rowing team. Her greatest ambition however, is to compete Molly successfully to BE100 level in an attempt to eventually qualify for Badminton Horse Trials.
Alice is a veterinary fourth year student and is a member of Fitzwilliam College. A keen horsewoman from a young age, Alice’s love of horses has seen her volunteer at local riding yards over the years alongside working on her ambition to become a vet. A member of Cambridge’s University Equestrian Team since 2012 as well as Modern Pentathlon Team from 2013, Alice is highly competitive and recalls “Having broken my arm at the last Varsity match I participated in, I’m pretty determined to help Cambridge defeat the dark side once again!” Alice is also keen to take advantage of the wider experiences offered by the Varsity Race such as witnessing the day to day running racing yards, a privilege to all equine fanatics!
Anni is a third year veterinary student at St Catharine's, Cambridge. Despite never owning her own horse, she has been riding for 15 years on any horse she could manage to beg and borrow. She enjoys playing Polo as well as being a Full Blue in High Jump for the Cambridge Athletics Club. Whilst being one of the less experienced riders of the team, Anni hopes her steely determination and extremely competitive spirit will help to ensure her place on the team. To improve her skills in the saddle Anni is riding out for Newmarket based John Ryan who also trained last year’s Varsity Race winning horse.
Lizzy has just completed her third year on the Veterinary Medicine course at Cambridge. She began riding when she was 10 years old and has been hooked ever since. As well as riding she enjoys spending time with family and friends, walking her dog and generally being outdoors. Along with horse riding, her love of animals steered her towards applying for veterinary school. She had a couple of years out between sixth form and university allowing her to get some valuable work experience with animals. During this time she was fortunate enough to work in Newmarket and stay with a keen polo player and it was here that she learnt all about the art of race riding. She now feels lucky to be learning to ride again on one of the most historic racecourses in the world and is working hard to get a place on the Cambridge team.
Now a veteran of the Vision Varsity Race, Ginny participated in the 2014 contest in which Cambridge triumphed. A member of Sidney Sussex College, Ginny is working toward her classification in Veterinary Medicine. Ginny is riding out for Christine Dunnett and has fallen in love with one of the residents of College Farm - an ex-racehorse! Marvelous Miss, commonly referred to as Maddy, is now being aimed at the next hunting season as the Master of the Cambridge University Draghounds horse.
About Newmarket Racecourses
Newmarket’s two magical racecourses, The Rowley Mile and The July Course, together form the greatest venue in the East of England. They offer the exhilarating excitement of world class Flat racing, pulsating music nights, great value family days, award-winning restaurants and exceptional conference & events facilities. More information is available at www.newmarketracecourses.co.uk.
Newmarket Racecourses are part of The Jockey Club, which has been at the heart of British racing for more than 260 years. Today the largest commercial group in the sport, The Jockey Club runs the largest racecourse group in the UK by turnover (2014: £162.9m), courses (15) including those at Aintree, Cheltenham, Epsom Downs and Newmarket, attendances (2014: 1.8m), total prize money (2014: £43.7m), contribution to prize money (2014: £19.1m) and quality racing (Group and Graded races); more than 3,000 acres of world-class training grounds in Newmarket, Lambourn and Epsom Downs; The National Stud breeding enterprise and education provider; and the charity for racing's people in need, Racing Welfare. Governed by Royal Charter, every penny The Jockey Club makes it puts back into British racing. More information is available at www.thejockeyclub.co.uk.
About Dubai Future Champions Festival
2015 will mark the inaugural running of the two-day Dubai Future Champions Festival on Friday, 9th and Saturday, 10th October - the highlight of the Gold Season at Newmarket Racecourses as well as one of Europe’s finest autumn racing Festivals.
With over £2 million in prize money on offer, the Dubai Future Champions Festival combines world class two-year-old races with premier older age contests at Newmarket’s Rowley Mile Racecourse.
Friday will feature four Group races with top billing going to the £500,000 Dubai Fillies’ Mile, Europe’s joint most valuable Group 1 two-year-old race. It will also be the Autumn Ladies Day featuring the Best Dressed Ladies Competition sponsored by the official Fashion Partner, the Spa at Bedford Lodge Hotel.
Saturday will bring another three Group races, including the only other £500,000 juvenile Group 1 contest, the Dubai Dewhurst Stakes, not to mention the 177th renewal of the £250,000 Betfred Cesarewitch Handicap.
The second running of the Vision.ae Varsity Race will take place ahead of the high quality card on the Saturday. Oxford and Cambridge Universities will continue their historic sporting rivalry as student jockeys from Britain’s top two academic institutions battle it out to see who can claim this year’s crown – will it again be the light blue of Cambridge or will the dark blues of Oxford take the Bearstead Perpetual Challenge Trophy for the first time?