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Izzy Phillips: My First Trip To Wetherby And An Emotional Win For Molly Ollys Wishes

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Our columnist Izzy Phillips takes a look back at her first visit to Wetherby for the Charlie Hall Chase, where she saw a fine performance from Bravemansgame in the showpiece race. She also had the honour of talking to the winning owners of Molly Ollys Wishes, who has an extremely emotional story, while she also got to sample some famous Yorkshire tea with co-host Frankie Foster from Raceday...

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I had been so excited all week for my first trip to a Northern racetrack. As I mentioned in a previous article I am blessed with where I live in the South as there are so many great racetracks in close proximity I have never ventured up North for my favourite sport. My trip to Wetherby began on Friday; I stupidly decided to start my journey at 4:30pm and got caught in all sorts of rush hour traffic. I finally arrived at my hotel. I would have loved to have driven around for a while to look for somewhere to eat but I was feeling tired so I decided to try the motorway services that I'd heard such great things about! I ended up getting a Burger King. I was a little disappointed as I massively prefer McDonalds but it did the job. Then it was back to the hotel room for a nice sleep and to enjoy the lie-in that I don’t usually get when travelling to the races. Apart from it sounding like the children from The Shining were having a relay race up and down the corridor at 10pm, it was a good night’s sleep.

The morning of the race day was upon me. It was such a luxury to have a cup of tea and watch The Opening Show on ITV as opposed to my usual dashing around to get on the road. The weather meant that it was also easier to get ready. The name of the game was to stay warm and after planning an elaborate hairdo I decided against it and had an extra 30 minutes in bed. There was no point in styling my hair for it to be rained on right? I was at the racecourse in no time (three minutes in fact!). One thing that struck me was just how beautiful Wetherby is. The race track is so rural - going on to the balcony of the stands to get some stunning shots looking out over the track was one of my first experiences on arrival. I was so impressed by the parade ring, the warm and cosy indoor spaces and the friendly vibe from all of the racegoers.

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The track was really busy for the Charlie Hall Chase day. There was a real buzz about the place with some great races on the card. The Skelton team had a fantastic day with three winners! Their day started with the incredibly brave mare Molly Ollys Wishes taking the bet365 Mares Hurdle. Molly Ollys Wishes fighting back to get up against Martello Sky was my highlight of the entire day. I was physically shaking with excitement when she crossed the line in front. I have followed the mare for a while and she has been so impressive.

I found out very early on that she was named after an incredible charity that grants wishes to children with life threatening illnesses. The owners have been so successful with her that they have been able to donate amazing sums to her charities namesake as well as her gaining great publicity for the charity. The charity and the mare are named after Molly Ollerenshaw, a young girl who lived with a rare type of cancer. Sadly Molly died and the charity was set up in order to continue some of the amazing work that Molly had done to support children who also had life threatening illnesses.

This knowledge makes all of Molly Ollys runs and wins that much more special.  I was so honoured to interview the owners and find out more about Molly Ollys Wishes and how she was bred as well as some more information about the amazing work the charity has done. My favourite quote of the entire day and possibly ever in terms of horse racing interviews was from Lainey Pugh, an ambassador and volunteer for the Molly Ollys Wishes charity, when she described the horse as having ‘Molly’s sparkle’. Shortly after the race I visited the Just Giving page for the charity and it was so heartwarming to see that so many people had donated with their winnings.

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The feature race of the day was the Charlie Hall Chase. It was the hotly anticipated rematch between Ahoy Senor and Bravemansgame and luckily both had made it to raceday. These two had met three times before, twice at Aintree and once at Kempton and each time one of them had put up a below par performance. It was clear from interviewing the crowds that decisions were completely split but that all were hoping for a great battle between the two. Unfortunately the race goers did not get their wish as the battle all but fell apart with Ahoy Senor not running his race. The Russell camp later revealed that he exerted himself too much in the early part of the race.

Bravemansgame however was majestic. He’d won easily but he was slowly being reeled in (or eased up - you decide) up the homestraight eventually winning by 3 ½ lengths. It was an impressive performance for the in-form Nicholls team. Bravemansgame potentially now heads to the Coral Gold Cup (The Hennessy) at Newbury and then on to the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.

The big race was over. My co-presenter on Saturday was Frankie Foster and both Frankie and I had hoped that Ahoy Senor would take the spoils so we went to console ourselves with a proper Yorkshire brew. Then we went back out to finish getting content for the day, having some great fun with questions for Halloween and taking snaps for our best dressed competition. Overall, I was blown away by Wetherby, its picturesque track and parade ring but also by the warmth of the racegoers. Another key highlight for me was just how much they loved their racing. I met a man who had the best collection of racing badges I have ever seen! I’ll definitely be going back and may have to make the Charlie Hall a regular pilgrimage for the National Hunt Season. We really are hitting full flow for the jumps now and I cannot wait to be at Cheltenham next weekend for their November Meeting - I'll be taking you along for the journey this time as a race goer rather than a presenter! Buckle up…

Izzy Yorkshire Tea2
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