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Camilla invites teenage horse riders from deprived areas to Ascot

Camilla attends Remembrance service at Westminster Abbey

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From inside the Aureole Room – an extension of the Royal Box at Ascot where the Queen meets jockeys and sometimes watches the races on her private television – Camilla took the royals’ private lift down to meet students from the Ebony Horse Club in south London. She had just watched a race named after the club from the Royal Box with three of its young members on a day when racing celebrated its ties with Ebony, which she has supported as its president since 2009.

The club, founded in 1969, currently has eight horses with 140 riders per week and aims to use the sport as a way of helping to improve the life skills, wellbeing and aspirations of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds in the south London borough of Lambeth.

Through Camilla it has developed close ties with horse racing.

Standing inside the cosy Royal Box, filled with armchairs, paintings of horse races, and a large television, Camilla said of the club: “It’s so exciting. They’re really doing such great things.”

And turning to three of its teenagers, she smiled: “Who had the winner?”

She chatted to some boys about the enjoyment they all got from riding, including Antwan Cunningham, 13, from Brixton. He told her he wanted to become a jockey. “My family were interested in horse riding so I think I am following in their footsteps,” he said.

“That’s fantastic,” said the Duchess, who arranged for children at the club to have a VIP tour of the racecourse.

The Duchess asked some of the young people to judge the best dressed horse in a race. She also invited a wider group of students to join her in presenting prizes to the winning jockey, Bryony Frost, and the rest of her team who triumphed with the horse Jeremy Pass in the second race of the day – the Ebony Horse Club Steeple Chase.

Alongside her at the presentations were Khadijah Mellah, a graduate of the Ebony Cub who in 2019 became the first British Muslim woman jockey to win a race, and O’Shane Marsh, 16, who also began at Ebony and is currently training as a jockey after winning a pony race at Ascot two years ago.

In the parade ring she chatted to students, including O’Shane, from East Dulwich, south London.

He and two other promising riders from the club, Theo Protheroe and Jesse Raven, both 15 and from Brixton, were invited to join Camilla in the Royal Box with Ebony’s chairman Sue Collins and the Queen’s representative at Ascot, Sir Francis Brooke.

Afterwards the boys raved about the experience, describing luxurious seats, drinks cabinets and four television screens.

Theo said: “It gave you a new perspective. Normally you’re down at ground level but you’re so high up and you can see everything.”

Among the guests was professional model and photographer Mikhi Fearon, 18, from Brixton. He spoke of how the Ebony Club had helped him in his life.

But Ascot was still a strange experience. “I hadn’t even heard of Ascot until I came here today,” he said.

In a Lock & Co hat and outfit by Mr Roy, Camilla, 74, has high hopes of the young equestrians.

“I hope there are going to be some more budding jockeys in future,” she said.

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