Shrewsbury schoolgirl's 'best moment of my life' meeting her horse racing hero

A young pony racer who met a Grand National-winning jockey has described it as the "best moment of her life."

Rachael hugs superfan Lexi. Photo: Ryan Day Photography.
Rachael hugs superfan Lexi. Photo: Ryan Day Photography.

Lexi Everington from Shrewsbury was left in tears when she met her hero, Rachael Blackmore, at the Betfair Chase Day at Haydock Park in Merseyside.

Grand National and Cheltenham Gold Cup-winning jockey Blackmore took time out of her day on Saturday to meet superfan Lexi, who attended the racecourse as a guest with her friends and family.

The 10-year-old, who attends Harlescott Junior School in Shrewsbury and races with her own pony, Mr Jerry Himself, went home with a signed picture, a pair of the jockey’s racing goggles, and memories to last a lifetime.

The meet-up came after pony-mad Lexi wrote a letter, later published in the Grassroots Gazette, in which she spoke about her favourite jockey. The letter then reached Blackmore who responded in a video message to the schoolgirl.

General manager of Haydock Racecourse, Molly Dingwall, read a news article about the pair and made it her mission to create an opportunity for them to meet – a chance which came with the Betfair Chase, with Blackmore travelling over to the racecourse for her ride on A Plus Tard.

Lexi and Rachael share a laugh. Photo: Adam Kenrick Photography.

Speaking about the experience, Lexi said: “Rachael has been a hero of mine since she won the Grand National (in 2021 on Minella Times) and since then I’ve followed her and watched her in every race.

“She was really kind to me and honestly it was probably the best moment of my life - she gave me her goggles!”

Lexi was reduced to tears when she was welcomed into the parade ring before spending some precious moments with Blackmore. She then returned to the stands to watch the first Grade One chase of the season get underway in a race won by the Dan Skelton-trained Protektorat.

And while Lexi and her family didn’t get to see Blackmore win the race, having pulled up three from the last, nothing could take the shine off their special day.

Lexi meets her hero, Rachael. Photo: Adam Kenrick Photography.

Mum Leanne said: “It had me in tears. It was just a proud mum moment. I want to thank Haydock for the opportunity that they have given Lexi and I think it will provide a lot of drive for her going into the season.

“She is on a young pony and it is difficult for her as we can’t afford a racing pony. It is getting that message out there that you don’t need a racing pony to go out racing.

“You’ve got all these ponies that showjump and show but you never see them on the racecourse.”

10-year-old Lexi with a signed photo of her hero, Rachael Blackmore. Photo: Ryan Day Photography.

Molly Dingwall, general manager of Haydock Park, said: “Horseracing is a truly emotive sport, we had such an incredible day for the Betfair Chase which was topped off by managing to fulfil young Lexi’s dream of meeting her hero Rachael.

“Lexi is a keen pony racer and to be able to get this to happen was very special. Hopefully we will see Lexi compete here at Haydock Park in our pony races and one day we may see her race under rules here.

“Here at Haydock we are passionate about horse racing’s continued growth as a sport and getting people of all ages involved.”

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