Cheltenham announce charity riders for St Patrick’s Derby at The Festival

Twelve lucky riders were announced today as the jockeys who will line up for next year’s St Patrick’s Derby, which takes place during The Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse on Thursday, March 13.


The fifth renewal of the charity race, which has raised over £800,000 so far for Cancer Research UK, sees a line-up of jockeys from all walks of life, some of whom currently work in racing and others that have careers outside the sport.


The 12 riders are Channel 4 Racing, BBC and Racing UK presenter Rishi Persad; Morgan Stanley banker Kieran Ryan; Development Director at Great British Racing Nigel Roddis; Dubai-based Sheikh Samir Mirdad; Emma Cook who works at Cheltenham Racecourse; Michelle Turner a Director at Pertemps; Point-to-Point enthusiast Heather Kemp; Wexford trainer Bernadette Murphy; assistant trainer to David Bridgwater, Lucy Bridgwater; County Meath businessman Douglas Taylor; student Tom O’Neill and Cheltenham businesswoman Alexia Buckwell.


Sophia Brudenell, Communications Manager at Cheltenham Racecourse, commented: “We had a huge number of entries for next year’s St Patrick’s Derby and it was therefore really difficult to pick the 12 chosen riders.


“We wanted to ensure that we have a mix of people riding from both the racing industry and those who ride either as a hobby or in another equine sport. People of all ages are participating and both sides of the Irish Sea are well represented.


“I really hope that next year’s race will push the total amount of money raised by Cheltenham for Cancer Research UK to over £1 million, which would be an amazing feat in the five years of the partnership.”


Frances Milner, Director of Supporter Led Fundraising for Cancer Research UK, added: “We are delighted that for the fifth year running Cancer Research UK will have the honour of benefitting from such a special charity flat race at The Festival.


“In previous years, we have been astounded by the race’s participants; from their personal motivations for wanting to race, the quality of their riding and of course their fantastic fundraising efforts. The money raised at The Festival will help us bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.


“We don’t receive any government funding, so every step towards beating cancer relies on every pound donated. We wish all of the participants the best of luck and we look forward to welcoming them over the finish line.”


Biogs off all the riders

  • ·      Rishi Persad, DOB26-05-1973, fromCobham, Surrey

Presenter for Channel 4 Racing, BBC and Racing UK

Due to work/life commitments Rishi has not ridden for many years and is preparing to significantly step up his training in order to take part. Rishi’s wife once rode on the Flat and is ready to dispense some advice on changes he needs to implement.

  • ·      Kieran Ryan, DOB11/6/1968, from Chiswick, London

Banker with Morgan Stanley

Kieran has been riding for about 10 years and has taken part in the Newmarket Town Plate three times. Competing in this race is important to him not only because of his love of Cheltenham but also because his father, who was also very passionate about racing, died about two years ago due to cancer.

  • ·      Nigel Roddis, DOB19/02/70, from London

Development Director at Great British Racing

To prove how much racing is embedded in Nigel’s life, he secured his first job at a law firm by tipping Imperial Call for the Cheltenham Gold Cup to the managing partner. Living in London means that riding out for Nigel is curtailed to the weekends; however the thought of riding up the hill at Cheltenham has kick started a new fitness regime. Nigel lost his grandfather, father and a close personal friend to cancer and so is very aware of the fantastic work that Cancer Research UK does.

  • ·      Sheikh Samir Mirdad, DOB28/01/1969, from Saudi Arabia

Advisor to senior Royal Family members in the Gulf Region

The Sheikh rides out as often as he can when in County Louth, Ireland, and Dubai, and the amateur rider has competed in show jumping as well in the Portuguese Sunshine Tour 2013. His grandmother, who raised him, fell victim to cancer as well as his wife who is currently recovering from the illness. He would like to raise as much money and awareness as he can for such a worthy cause.

  • ·      Emma Cook, DOB28/05/1989, fromTewkesbury, Gloucestershire

Regional Senior Sales Co-Ordinator at Cheltenham Racecourse

Having worked in Cheltenham for a few years, Emma knows the place very well. She has ridden for 10 years and is very keen to make a worthwhile difference to anyone suffering with the disease.

  • ·      Michelle Turner, DOB07/11/64, from Swindon, Wiltshire

Main Board Director of Pertemps

Michelle has an excellent level of fitness as she exercises three times a week with a personal trainer. Having ridden most of her life, she will be well versed for the race.

  • ·      Heather Kemp, DOB21/02/1965, from Towcester, Northamptonshire

Property Manager and Point-to-Point Trainer

Heather has 77 winners point-to-pointing, as well as rides under Rules. Her husband has recently been diagnosed with a serious illness, which has inspired her to raise as much money as possible to support the cause.

  • ·      Bernadette Murphy, DOB15/02/1979, from Enniscorthy, Wrexford

Trainer and Clerical Officer

Bernadette has held an amateur licence for several years and enjoyed win and placed rides both point-to-pointing and under Rules. She is a keen runner and has first-hand experience of the suffering that cancer causes, as her father died in 1999 after a brave battle.

  • ·      Lucy Bridgwater, DOB08/10/69, fromStow-On-The-Wold, Glos

Assistant trainer to David Bridgwater

Lucy works at a yard local to Cheltenham, where The Giant Bolster, owned by Simon Hunt and placed in the last two Cheltenham Gold Cups, is trained. Back in 2011, the yard’s head girl, Kelly Walsh, died from cancer and Lucy’s ride in the race will be dedicated to Kelly.

  • ·      Douglas Taylor, DOB13/10/73, from Kilcloon, County Meath

Company Director

Douglas’s passion for hunting and show jumping keeps him fit along with regular training.  He has been coming to Cheltenham for 23 years with two ambitions: to have a winner at Cheltenham (which he achieved in 2011, with Final Approach winning the Vincent O’Brien Hurdle) and to win the St Patrick’s Derby at The Festival.

  • ·      Tom O’Neill, DOB16/01/88, from Mallow, County Cork


Inspired by his uncle, Jonjo O’Neill, Cork-based Tom rides out at Jackdaws Castle in the summer and rides out locally in the winter months. He also enjoys hunting and taking part in Show Jumping leagues. Both of Toms’ uncles have battled with cancer. When he first listened to Jonjo talk about the treatment and the pain he had to go through, he thought how amazing it was to see how a human can defeat this terrible illness. He wishes to raise as much money as possible to help the everyday research to defeat cancer.

  • ·      Alexia Buckwell, DOB05/12/71, from Cheltenham, Glos

Account Manager and Director of Country to Country Property Group

Alexia has an advanced 3DE, worked with Henrietta Knight on horses including Best Mate and pre-training racehorses for Flat and National Hunt.  Alexia was diagnosed with Primary Lymphoedema in her left leg, after the birth of her first child. She would like to raise awareness of the condition to show that having such a condition does not mean that you have to stop doing the activities you enjoy.


Previous winners of the St Patrick’s Day Derby include racing TV presenter Lorna Fowler, Orna Madden, Brian Bunyan and silver Olympic medallist Tina Cook in 2012, just prior to her London glory.


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  1. The process for choosing the jockeys is as bent as anything I was promised a ride in this race over 12 months ago and because there are a few high profile applications I have had my position taken away. if your not wealthy, famous, related to the right people or work for Cheltenham then DO NOT BOTHER will be able to read the full story as I am going to the papers its totally unfair….. every person is equal in my mind and everyone should be given equal chance ….. check the entries and make your own mind up. I have ridden in over 25 charity races raising in excess of £65000,00 which is more than any other jockey as raised in charity races. a large percentage of that I have contributed myself due to lack of sponsorship but I love supporting various charities and I really enjoy race riding. I have ridden all over the uk in horrific conditions at some lovely and not so lovely tracks. I wonder if the Sheikh and some of these celebs would travel down to Towcester on a wet, windy winters day paying for everything for the cause??? think not eh!!!!!!. its a disgrace please give your views and support to

    • I really feel for you Mr McCarthy I heard about this earlier today by a friend of mine that works at Cheltenham. The all thing sounds very suspect and to be promised and then let down is disgusting. your either in the circle or you are treat accordingly. I hope you get this in the public knowledge far too much of it goes on.




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