Saturday, 13 August 2022

Henley girl to race at Glorious Goodwood

A teenage showjumper from Hambleden is looking to make a name for herself in horse racing with a win at Glorious Goodwood

A teenage showjumper from Hambleden is looking to make a name for herself in horse racing with a win at Glorious Goodwood.

Leonora Smee, 19, is one of 10 women who will be competing in the Ladies Day Magnolia Cup, a celebrity charity race, at the festival's Ladies Day (Thursday, July 30).

Leonora, who lives with her parents Roger, a businessman, and Karen, has toured the world as a showjumper but says racing at the iconic Sussex course is a completely different challenge.

She said: "The racing will be very different to showjumping.

"This year Qatar has done a deal with Goodwood and because I'm in a very fortunate position to work for the Qatari royal family I got a position in the race.

"It's just the most beautiful event and I'm very lucky to be involved in such an amazing race.

"They make you feel very special and it's all for an incredible cause."

Leonora took part in last year's Magnolia Cup, which has raised more than £800,000 for charity, finishing fifth. This time round she is targeting the win but faces stern competition from the likes of BBC journalist Alexis Green and event rider Izzy Taylor.

Leonora will be riding Pearl Noir, a five-year-old bay gelding trained by Scott Dixon, the country's youngest racehorse trainer.

She said: "It's all very girly before the race when we are in the changing rooms, it's delightful. That all changes when you get to the start line, everyone gets very competitive!

"You do have to work hard as a jockey and it's completely different to jumping. You have to be very strong and fit and I'm hoping this year I've worked hard enough to get the result I want.

"It's a celebrity charity race but I'm definitely not a celebrity! I was middle of the field last year but my horse wasn't very fast. I'm definitely aiming for a better result this year.

"I've met my horse and even took along lots of Polo mints with me as a bribe! He's a very nice ride, very quiet and hopefully we will cross that finish line exactly where we want to be."

Leonora, who rides two showjumpers, Waltons Top Flight and Lord Lorien, now travels the world taking part in competitions and has toured around Europe.

She said: "The destinations we visited in Europe were unbelievable, we jumped in St Tropez, Cannes and also in Paris. There's nothing like jumping under the Eiffel Tower.

"My ambition of course is in showjumping. I'm in a very lucky position in that I have great sponsors who allow me to ride in great places."

When she isn't competing, Leonora isn't short of things to do. She is the face of modelling company South West Ten, which was founded by Henley friends Alex Dadley and Linda McCooke, and is also a presenter on a luxury TV channel.

She said: "I very much enjoy the modelling and TV presenting.

"That means when I'm not showjumping I can get to events like the World Equestrian Games, which were held in Normandy last year.

"I'm very lucky that I have quite a glamorous lifestyle."

That glamour will come in useful at Goodwood, where eyes will be as much on her outfits as the racing.

Leonora will attend the regency ball on the eve of her race, where she will be dressed by designer Bruce Oldfield with diamonds provided by Boodles of Bond Street. On race day her outfit has been designed by Alice Temperley, Boodles and Rachel Black Millinery.

She will also have bespoke silks for the race which have been created by London-based designer Beulah.

Leonora said: "They are all British designers, which is great.

"Ladies Day is on Thursday and I will have the most incredible designers for it.

"It's the best day of the festival, you get beautiful women turning up in the most incredible outfits and it's also the best day's racing in the UK, possibly the world."

Dressed for success Leonora is hoping to turn heads for a different reason when she crosses the finish line.

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