By Great British Racing/Georgia Dingle
GB: Saturday August 1 will mark the anniversary of Khadijah Mellah’s momentous victory in the 2019 Magnolia Cup charity race at the Qatar Goodwood Festival, where she became the first British Muslim woman to ride in – and win – a horserace in the UK.
From Peckham in south London, Khadijah learnt to ride at the charity Ebony Horse Club in Brixton and her Glorious Goodwood victory on the Charlie Fellowes-trained Haverland achievement came just three months after she first sat on a racehorse, against a field of competitors including Olympian Victoria Pendleton.
Viewers will have the chance to relive the entire story when the documentary Riding A Dream is aired again at 12.50pm on ITV this Saturday. The film has won the award for Best British Short Film (for a UK documentary under 55 minutes) at the prestigious British Documentary Film Festival.
Khadijah made global headlines for her inspiring achievement; she was named the Sunday Times Young Sportswoman of the Year and is now an ambassador for Great British Racing.
“Winning the Magnolia Cup was a whirlwind experience and something that has changed my life immensely,” reflects Khadijah. “The fact that the documentary of my story has gone on to win Best British Short Film is totally surreal.”
Khadijah is determined to use her experience to inspire other young people. “At the time, I was looking up to role models to help inspire me and get me through the gruelling training,” she says.
“So it was incredible to then receive messages from young women and girls in particular, saying that I had inspired them to do something out of their comfort zone.
“It is so important to me to encourage people to be determined and pursue a sport to a higher level, despite what other people may think. My hope is that my experiences will encourage more people to get involved in racing.”
‘I know for sure I’ve broken some perceptions of a young Muslim woman’
Khadijah’s victory made history and changed the perceptions of young women in her community. “I know for sure that I have broken some perceptions of a young Muslim woman and it is something that I am proud of and will continue to do,” she says.
“Me being Muslim isn’t just it. It is important that people realise that being a certain religion or from a certain background doesn’t determine your interests and the person you are, and it certainly doesn’t determine how good you are. For me it is so important to be able to spread the message that you can be successful despite your background.”
Khadijah hopes that her story and positive experience within the sport will see a shift in horse racing.
“When I was younger, I didn’t think that getting into racing would be an option for me or someone of my background,” she says.
“There was no one that looked like me. I hope now that I have joined the racing industry and I have been a success story that young people like me will also see there is an opportunity for them to join that racing community.”
ITV Racing presenter Oli Bell is also the producer of the award-winning documentary based on Khadijah’s ground-breaking achievement.
‘We were so lucky to be working with Khadijah’
“The Riding A Dream team are thrilled to receive this prestigious award,” he said. “It is recognition of a lot of people’s hard work and testament to what an incredible young woman Khadijah is.”
“We were so lucky to be working with Khadijah who dealt with everything that the filming and the preparation for the race threw at her and I am delighted that her story has been recognised in this way.
“On behalf of the film makers, we would like to thank the team at the British Racing School and Charlie Fellowes Racing for all their help and Great British Racing, The Racing Foundation and Goodwood Racecourse for their belief in this project from the start. I hope that Khadijah’s success helps to make the sport a more diverse and inclusive one going forwards.”
The film was directed and filmed by filmmakers Tom Bolwell and Mattia Reiniger and produced by Oli and Phil Bell.