BY TOBY PORTER
An 18-year-old student is all set for the race of her life when she lines up to race at Goodwood on Thursday.
Khadijah Mellah, from Peckham will line-up against the likes of Olympian Victoria Pendleton and model Vogue Williams for the biggest day in her sporting life.
Khadijah, who has just finished her A-levels and is set to study mechanical engineering at university in September, learnt to ride at the charity Ebony Horse Club in Brixton, but only sat on a racehorse for the first time in April.
Her journey from South-east London to one of the most famous racecourses in the world, where she will compete in ladies’ only charity horse race, the Magnolia Cup, will be the subject of a documentary called Riding a Dream, which will air in the autumn.
Since the end of her A-levels and Ramadan, Khadijah has been based in Newmarket as part of her preparation for the race.
She said, “I had my exams so I joined the party quite late and only started riding racehorses in April.
I know it sounds weird but you don’t understand how fast they are until you’ve sat on one. But I have put in a lot of hard work – riding out two or three times a day, as well as time in the gym and on the equicisers, so I feel like I have learnt the ropes.
“It will be incredible to line up in a week’s time against the likes of Victoria Pendleton. I don’t really get too nervous and I have been to the races a couple of times in Newmarket so I have a better idea of what to expect.
“It’s crazy to think of my journey over the last couple of months but a big part of my life has been proving people wrong.
There are definitely a fair few guys out there who would struggle to do what I am doing, and I am thrilled that I am part of a shift in social understanding of what women can achieve and what they can be good at.
“There’s quite a stereotype around Muslim girls and them not being able to follow their sporting passions and dreams.
I want to be a role model to anyone who wants to do something that they wouldn’t initially believe was in their comfort zone, and allow people to follow their aspirations and dreams.”
The documentary is being directed by Mattia Reiniger and Tom Bolwell and is being produced by ITV Racing’s Oli Bell and his brother Philip Bell.
It is being funded by Great British Racing, Goodwood Racecourse and The Racing Foundation, all of which are official partners of the film.
Executive Producer of the film, Oli Bell, said: “For the documentary Riding a Dream to be successful we needed someone who was determined, ambitious and brilliant, and we found that in Khadijah.
When we started out on this project she was doing her A-levels, it was Ramadan and she was having to learn to be a jockey, which is a huge physical challenge in itself.
Since her exams she has really dedicated herself to her training, and we are hugely grateful to everyone who has helped her, particularly the British Racing School.
The improvement that Khadijah has shown has been truly remarkable. It’s a wonderful story because you see someone who never would have expected to ride in a race, and you can see her blossom.
“Hopefully it will show that whoever you are, whatever your background, you can achieve your dreams.”
Khadijah will ride a horse called Haverland in the race, which is trained by Newmarket-based Charlie Fellowes.
Alongside the British Racing School, Charlie has been instrumental in Khadijah’s training, and said: “Khadijah has worked so hard since she has been based in Newmarket, and to say she has improved in her riding is an understatement.
She has ridden out with my team practically every day and has built a really close bond with Haverland, who adores her.
She has been so determined and focused and all of the team here wish her every bit of luck for the race next week.”
The Magnolia Cup takes place at 1.20pm on August 1 at Goodwood Racecourse.