Centuries old rivalries between Oxford and Cambridge will be put to a new test this autumn when student riders will go head-to-head in the first-ever Flat race between the two Universities at Newmarket’s historic Rowley Mile course on Dubai Future Champions Day (17th October 2014).
Sporting competition between the two seats of learning has been a feature since the first annual Boat Race in 1829 but, until now, the two Universities have never faced each other on the racecourse, despite both boasting active equestrian clubs.
This is about to change when five riders from each University will don racing colours in the distinctive blues made famous by other sporting rivalries, including Rugby Union and Rugby League Varsity Matches.
The Oxbridge Race…
The Oxbridge race will be the last on a prestigious card of seven top-class races as part of Dubai Future Champions Day at the historic HQ of Horseracing. Newmarket is also home to over 3,000 racehorses and hosts the first two Classics of the Flat season.
Seven riders from each University are now undergoing training at the town’s British Racing School and Oaksey House in Lambourn in order to prepare them for the rigors of race riding over eight furlongs at the Rowley Mile. Final jockey selections will be announced in early October.
Student Harry Beckett, who first conceived the idea, commented; “I’ve spent two years trying to get this race off the ground so I’m delighted to see it come to fruition. I sincerely hope that this is just the start of a real connection between racecourses and students, as there is a real need for more sustainable investment. There are so many people I would like to thank for making this happen and fingers-crossed it will become an annual event, enabling riders to qualify for a Blue in future years.”
Spark Student Interest…
It will also form part of a more major plan to encourage interest in the sport among students and younger adults. Students will be allowed in for free on Dubai Future Champions Day held at Newmarket and at the following day’s QIPCO British Champions Day meeting at Ascot (18th October 2014).
Oli Lawrence, captain of the Cambridge team who is studying Earth Sciences at Gonville and Caius College, commented: “I am honoured to be captaining the first ever horse racing team for Cambridge – it’s brilliant addition to the existing varsity sporting competitions and one that hopefully will be part of history for years to come. I hope all my fellow students get behind us and come along to support this event.”
Lizzy Hamilton, captain of the Oxford team who is studying Chemistry at Christ Church College said: “I cannot wait to take part in the Varsity horse race – it’s a superb initiative. Rivalry betweenthe Universities of Oxford and Cambridge goes back so many centuries and we cannot wait to compete against Cambridge on the racecourse”
From The Universities…
Michael Prosser, Head of Racing for The Jockey Club East Region, commented: “It’s a great initiative and has captured the imaginations of both Universities, with the number of applicants for the race far exceeding the number of places available. The competition between the two Universities goes back hundreds of years and we are sure the race will attract plenty of interest on Dubai Future Champions Day. The event can only help strengthen Horseracing‘s link with students and education.”
Rod Street, Chief Executive of Great British Racing, said: “This new race is a great innovation for racing and we’re delighted that the students at Oxford and Cambridge have embraced the idea with such enthusiasm. We hope students turn out in force to cheer on the riders and take advantage of the amazing free entry offers at Newmarket and Ascot.”