BY TOBY PORTER
Horse racing is dubbed the “sport of kings”. Its most glamourous festival involves posh frocks and fancy hats.
Pantomime horse racing, however, involves at least one competitor holding on to someone else’s, er, hindquarters. Perhaps it should be called the “sport of bums”.
It may be the result of years of highly complex thoroughbred research and carefully reared stock. It is more likely to be the outcome of some very strange inbreeding.
The 10th staging of the most high profile annual event, its equivalent of Royal Ascot, is due to take place in December in, funnily enough, Royal Greenwich. The winner will be crowned the reining champ.
For the losers, the glue factory beckons. But in this case, at least, you might get a tip from the horse’s mouth, which it would not take Dr Doolittle to decipher.
And this time it has a theme – Star Wars. May the Horse Be With You. It all began in 2009 as a small quirky community event in Greenwich
It now gets so much worldwide coverage that an offshoot event is being held in Chicago, USA, on the same day.
The Chicago Pantomime Horse Race will also have panto horses dressed as Star Wars characters navigating (human formed) asteroid belts, steeple jumps and a galactic space-hopper challenge towards the finish line.
Greenwich will also have a special Star Wars-themed street procession, featuring a battalion of Storm Troopers, Rebels, Jedis and Droids who will escort teams to the starting line at Devonport House, King William Walk.
Organisers have launched a public call for teams to sign up for the race early this year, and also help get behind a special fundraising campaign called ‘Help Rosie walk’.
Rosie is a five-year-old girl from Greenwich who has Spastic Diplegia Cerebral Palsy, and needs a life-changing operation in the US that will give her the chance to take her first independent step.
Rosie’s family have set up a Facebook fundraising campaign page, Rosie’s legs, to help raise the £100,000 needed for her operation and rehabilitation.
Mark Biddiss, race founder and organiser, hopes teams can raise £50,000 towards Rosie’s operation, and help make a young girl’s dream of taking her first steps come true.
He said: “Getting behind the Rosie’s Legs campaign has brought back to me the initial inspiration I first had when I started the event 10 years ago.
“That was simply to get the community, in the spirit of fun and laughter, to try and make some difference to young people’s lives, by helping fundraise and highlight such causes that need our help.
“I still strongly believe with the London community coming together to get behind this special fundraising campaign, we can all play a small part in helping improve this young child’s quality of life by simply helping spreading the word and donating a few pounds to get her the vital life-changing operation she so desperately needs.”
Daria Morris, from the Rosie’s Legs charity, said: “When we read about the amazing work Mark has done to help raise funds for the various charities over the years, we thought we would contact him and ask if he would be willing to help us out.
To out amazement, Mr Biddiss agreed to have Rosie’s campaign be one of the main beneficiaries this year, marking the 10th anniversary of the Pantomime horse race.
“We are truly grateful for the platform we have been given for this, which means that Rosie’s wish to walk independently one day is very likely to come true, as every donation made will take us one step closer to our target.
“Please sign up and take part, it’s fun and for a great cause. “Don’t expect sympathy if your nag doesn’t come in, though – someone will ask you “Why the long face?”
The 2019 London race will also raise funds for Make-a-Wish UK, along with The Running Charity and YOUCAN- Youth Cancer support .
The Chicago pantomime Horse race will also be raising money for Make a Wish US Foundation.