Glorious! Rider in hijab races into history
BRITAIN’S first female Muslim jockey made history at Glorious Goodwood yesterday after sensationally winning her debut race.
Student Khadijah Mellah, 18, wept tears of joy after storming to victory in front of a crowd of 25,000 jubilant spectators.
Incredibly Khadijah – who learned to ride at a club for innercity youngsters – first sat on a racehorse only a few months ago.
In dramatic fashion Khadijah took the lead in the home straight, flying past the field of 11 riders in the Magnolia Cup. The amateur rider, from Peckham, south-east London, left Olympic cycling champion turned jockey Victoria Pendleton trailing in her wake.
The fairytale win in the prestigious charity race for female riders, run over five-and-a-half furlongs, lit up Ladies Day at the course.
Meanwhile, racegoers were keen to turn up the glamour at the Sussex racecourse. Many revellers sported brightly coloured outfits, with floral patterns and bold prints proving a popular choice. TV presenter Charlotte Hawkins was in the crowd, as was Katie Price with new fiance Kris Boyson.
Khadijah – the first person in the UK to appear in a competitive race in a hijab – was mobbed by wellwishers after the race.
She broke down in tears before
sharing a hug with proud mother Selma. She said: “I’m just in shock. I can’t believe it. That was such an unbelievable experience.
“It is just mind-blowing to think I was even in the same race as Victoria Pendleton, let alone to beat her and the rest of the women. Even in my wildest dreams I never imagined this could happen. I only sat on a racehorse a couple of months ago. I am never going to forget this day.
“To be honest, I want to go back and do it all over again – what an incredible feeling.”
She added: “There have been early mornings and fitness training, but it has been well worth it.”
Apprentice star Luisa Zissman, who also took part in the race, said: “Khadijah came flying past me crying. It was epic and a welldeserved win.”
Khadijah took up riding at Ebony Horse Club in Brixton, south London, a charity that helps disadvantaged young people.
David Fleming, from the charity, said: “We all got a real kick out of watching Khadijah do so brilliantly today. It takes a special kind of person to do what she has done.”
Legendary jockey Frankie Dettori said: “It’s incredible, unbelievable. I met her yesterday and she is such a sweet person.”
Charlie Fellowes, who trained the winning horse Haverland, said: “Khadijah’s just a legend. I’ve never known anyone with so much focus and determination.”
Khadijah said she hoped the triumph would inspire others to “follow their dreams”. She said: “Ambitious women can make it. That is what I want to represent.”
Khadijah with proud mother Selma; and right, flying past the field in the home straight Jubilant Khadijah Mellah, 18, with Haverland; left, with fellow riders including Victoria Pendleton and Luisa Zussman
Music group Elle And The Pocket Belles joined racegoers, far left, for Ladies Day; right, TV presenter Charlotte Hawkins opted for a floral look