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16 August 2019

Epsom Open Day: “She’s riding better now than ever”

Meet father and daughter combination Roger and Rhiain Ingram Amongst the trainers opening their yard gates to the public for Epsom Open Day on this year is Roger Ingram. Howard Wright spoke to Roger and his daughter Rhiain about their relationship and hopes for a winner on Bank Holiday Monday.

FATHER and son combinations have been a feature of British racing since the sport’s earliest days. Father and daughter partnerships on the racecourse are much rarer, but Epsom is helping to pave the way through trainer Roger Ingram and apprentice jockey Rhiain.

Roger, the son of a miner from Tredegar in South Wales, arrived in Epsom as a 16-year-old in 1966, when he turned up at Brian Swift’s Loretta Lodge stable hoping to fulfil his dreams of becoming a jockey.

Rising weight dashed that ambition and after eight years with Swift, he headed to the Midlands, where he worked for the next 20 years, including looking after the Grand National winner West Tip while with Michael Oliver, but Epsom called again in 1993, when he and his wife Sharon took over Wendover stables on the edge of the Downs.

Their daughter Rhiain, who was educated locally at the all-girl Rosebery School, has similarly left Epsom, if briefly, only to return. After registering her best season in 2018, with 13 winners from 221 rides, she joined Richard Spencer in Newmarket, but a blossoming tie-up with new trainer Paul George, to whom she is now apprenticed, brought her back home.

George, who took over the licence from his mother Karen, trains at Crediton in Devon, a commute just too far for Rhiain, who says: “The nearest tracks are Chepstow and Bath, which are both two hours away from the stable. So, it’s easier for me to be at home, although I go down there to ride out and do all the barrier trials.

Although Rhiain first popped on a pony at the age of one and, says Roger, “was always competitive from an early age,” she had a slow start to her race-riding career. In fact, having had her first ride in public in October 2012, it was not until her third season and 90 rides later that she rode her first winner, on the Ingram stable’s Encapsulated at Lingfield on 5 August 2015.

I was already riding for Karen, when Paul was her assistant, and I had two wins for her at the beginning of last year and four or five when Paul took over. They’ve expanded and asked me if I’d go as an apprentice to them. It seemed like a no-brainer.

She went on to win four races on Encapsulated, whom she now keeps as a pet at home, but the barren spell leading up to his first success is still fresh in the memory.

“I’d be wrong to say it didn’t get to me,” Rhiain reflects. “That first winner was more a relief than any other feeling, because I was getting to stage of thinking, ‘When is it going to happen,’ wondering if it was ever going to happen.”

Roger had no doubts. “I knew it would happen,” he says.

When she started as an amateur at 16, there was no way a horse was going to win with four stone of lead on its back, but it was good experience for her.

Progressive scores leading up to last year’s best-ever received a setback with a slow start to 2019.

Rhiain says:

It started getting to me a little but then I had two months off with a collarbone injury. It’s something I’ve done in the past and looking back, I think it was affecting my riding, although I probably didn’t realise it at the time. But it’s been good since I came back and the winners have started coming again.

Four winners from eight rides in the first week of August, including a 20-1 success on the Ingram stable’s Cristal Pallas Cat, prove Rhiain’s point, and leave proud father Roger enthusing:

She’s riding better now than ever, for having had the time off, and nothing would give me greater pleasure than for us to have a winner together at Epsom on Bank Holiday Monday.