08 March 2018
Four women holding key roles at Chepstow Racecourse not only have a specialist knowledge of the racing industry but also share a lifelong love of all things equestrian.
Sales Manager Charlotte Caple started riding on a Shetland pony, called Penny, when she was just three.
“We always had horses on our farm. My mother was involved in eventing and breeding and my sister and I were riding almost as soon as we could walk!” she explained.
“I’ve always loved Welsh ponies. I currently have a Section B stallion who has just started being shown under saddle. I also have a 16hh Irish draught x thoroughbred called Poppy who I compete with in working classes, and a 12.2hh part-bred filly who has recently gone to stud.”
Marketing Manager Bex King learnt to ride as a toddler on a Shetland pony called Misty, and as a teenager was mad on show-jumping.
“My mum was a groom for David Broome when he was competing with the legendary Philco and continued to work for him in the following years, so I grew up with horses from a tot, helping at the Broome’s event centre in my spare time,” she said.
Her favourite horse was a 14.2hh piebald cob called Huntsman Turn, known as Turner, who she competed on from small shows in Trellech to larger competitions held at Broome's.
Chepstow’s General Manager Caroline Williams, currently on maternity leave, has a rehabilitated racehorse named TJ, who she enjoys hacking around the leafy lanes of Monmouthshire.
“I got interested in racing as a little kid through my Dad. While I was still at school I used to ride out for David Nicholson, whose stable stars at that time included Viking Flagship, and later while I was at university I rode out for Bernard Llewellyn. “
It was during her time at Swansea Uni that she discovered the British Horse Racing Graduates Programme, where you could be sponsored by a company in racing and have experience of working in the industry for a week at the Racing School in Newmarket, learning the business side.
Before joining the team at Chepstow, Caroline worked at Wincanton Racecourse and Goodwood Festival.
In 2003 she got the opportunity to take part in a charity race – and came fourth. She admits it was ‘a terrifying experience’.
“My legs were shaking like jelly at the end! The horse had been off the track for 280 days off and pulled really hard. It was nothing like riding out on the gallops. I was glad to survive!”
Sarah Bell, who looks after the interests of owners, trainers and members at Chepstow Racecourse, also rode in a charity race in her days riding out for trainer Gary Moore.
She agrees with Caroline that the experience of riding at racing speed was terrifying.
“I rode ponies when I was growing up and used to compete in pony club events and show jumping. Then I went to the University of Sussex, which was close to Brighton Racecourse.
“While I was there I worked part-time at a pub where many of the regulars would talk about racing after spending an afternoon in the betting shop nearby. Gary Moore’s yard at that time was just a few miles away and I ended up riding out for him on a regular basis.
“I eventually took part in a charity race on a horse called Waikiki Beach. I couldn’t believe how different it was from riding on the gallops. The speed was incredible. It all happened in a flash – but I think we ended up coming third!”
With Caroline and Sarah’s experience of riding out for top trainers, Charlotte’s passion for showing and Bex’s history with show-jumping, the management team at Chepstow Racecourse has certainly taken on an added dimension.