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Khadijah Mellah has become the first rider to race in a hijab in Britain

Student Khadijah Mellah has recorded a fairytale win on the Charlie Fellows-trained Haverland in the Magnolia Cup at Goodwood.

The 18-year-old was the first rider to race in a hijab in Britain and she delivered her mount with a perfectly timed run to lift the ladies-only charity race.

Mellah, who comes from Peckham in South London and is set to study mechanical engineering at university in September, learned to ride at the Ebony Horse Club charity in Brixton – but sat on a racehorse for the first time in April.

She certainly belied her lack of experience, as she exercised patience aboard Haverland, only making her move coming into the final furlong (200m).

It was a blanket finish to the race, but after a tense wait, Haverland was called the winner.

Mellah is now hoping to build on her success, with an amateur licence in her sights, and hopes her triumph will serve as a beacon to others.

“There are no words to describe it. I can’t believe it, to be fair,” she said.

“I’m just so glad everyone is here to support me and that Haverland did well and he is OK. He is such an amazing horse and I love him so much.

“Everyone was on the ball at the start and there were three horses in a line in front of me, like a brick wall, and the kickback was flying in my face and I didn’t know what to do, so I pulled out to see what would happen.

“I passed the person next to me and I thought, ‘I can’t believe it is happening’. I then I saw all the family and friends come past and I started crying uncontrollably. It has been amazing.

“Ambitious women can make it and that is what I want to represent. I’ve had so much support and I can’t wait to see other stories of other women doing the same and getting into the industry.

“I’m definitely going to try to get my amateur licence. I definitely want to keep going at it, as I’ve loved every second.”

Australia’s VRC ambassador Georgia Connolly finished out of the placings as did dual Olympic cycling champion Victoria Pendleton.

Naomi Howgate, of the Ebony Horse Club, said Mellah was shining representative for the organisation which teaches riding skills and horse care to disadvantaged youth in inner-city Brixton.

“She is just a really incredible person and quite a few people have said that about her,” Howgate said.

“She is an incredible mentor for the younger kids at the club.

“I think this has a wider significance on quite a few levels.

“For us personally at Ebony Horse Club, we are quite a small charity, but we see 150 kids a week and often they have never sat on a horse before, so for those youngsters – some as young as eight – to look at Khadijah in the ranks of our club and see she has won a race, it is just so inspiring.”

 
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