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Khadijah Mellah: Hijab-wearing jockey triumphs on Haverland and makes history

Charlie Fellowes-trained Haverland was 25-1 prior to the race

Four months ago Khadijah Mellah had not even sat on a racehorse, but on Thursday she made history by winning the Magnolia Cup at Glorious Goodwood.

The 18-year-old student is believed to be the first person in the UK to appear in a competitive horse race while wearing a hijab.

The amateur rider from Peckham, in south London, won the five-and-a-half-furlong charity race aboard Charlie Fellowes-trained 25-1 outsider Haverland, beating the likes of Olympic cycling champion turned jockey Victoria Pendleton.

“There are no words to describe this – I’m lost for words,” Mellah said.

“When I passed the post I couldn’t believe it, and then I saw all my family and friends and started crying. I am quite competitive, so I wanted to win this race, but I never expected to.

“Horses bring me immeasurable amounts of happiness. I’ve always loved them and always will and I hope to carry on and keep riding.”

BBC presenter Alexis Green, former Apprentice star Luisa Zissman and TV personality Vogue Williams also took part in the all-female race.

Jockey Frankie Dettori told BBC Sport: “I watched the race. It’s incredible, unbelievable. I met her yesterday and she is such a sweet person.”

Mellah learned to ride at the Ebony Horse Club charity in Brixton – but sat on a racehorse for the first time in April this year.

According to the Muslim Women’s Sport Foundation, the number of female British Muslim jockeys – past and present – is in “single digits”.


BBC horse racing correspondent Cornelius Lysaght

What an extraordinary story, and what a boost for racing in an area in which all sports are keen to make an impression, among a potential audience with which it is not normally associated – in this case young, non-white and inner city-based.

Although Mellah has ridden for some time, race-riding at perhaps 35 miles an hour is a completely different thing, and here she is wowing a vast stage after just a few months. And she was ice-cool under extraordinary media pressure, which bodes well if she does fulfil a declared ambition to qualify for a full amateur jockey’s licence.


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