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  • Writer's pictureJo O'Neill

The Racing Life of Georgie Thorogood

Updated: Feb 10


Life is not worth wasting and no one knows that more that Georgie Thorogood. ‘Or is it Thorogood-Bamford?…I’ve only been married a month and haven’t decided yet!’ she chuckles.

Mark Bamford is Georgie’s husband and the future couldn’t be brighter – they are expecting their first child in early summer. Georgie, 41, has always lived her life to the fullest – racing, racehorses, dogs, parties, holidays all mixed with a passion for country music. A love of this music genre led her to living a dream when organizing a country music festival on the family farm, once the site of the V Festival. Called Tennessee Fields, it had showcased two days of Stetsons, denim and artists like Ward Thomas and American Idol runner-up Lauren Alaina. Sadly, the festival was a casualty of the coronavirus pandemic. Continuing the music vibe, Georgie has been a radio presenter on Radio Chelmsford and Chelsmford Community Radio.


Country music has given Georgie many memories


Yet, never fully leaving behind her love of racing, Georgie has worked in yards, particularly in the sport’s epicenter of Newmarket, ridden as an amateur, been on differing frontlines of office roles and has even ridden in the late Prince Khalid Bin Abdullah’s colours in an Ascot charity race, which she duly won. She counts her two ex-racehorses, Salsero and Backbord, as beloved pets. As well as being a freelance marketing and events consultant, Georgie is the Marketing & Communications lead for the British Racing School in Newmarket.

 

Georgie grew up near Chelmsford, Essex, and lives in High Easter with Mark and Loretta, a rescued lurcher and professed ‘queen of the household’. For them all, the years ahead will be lived as fully as the years gone by – Georgie will champion motherhood as she has done racehorses, radio waves and racecourses.


Did you have a horsey childhood? I started riding before I could remember. We have a lovely picture of me at a hunt meet aged about three, on my first pony, Impey, who was about a million years old. I went to Pony Club the whole way through and made some fantastic friends. I was really lucky to have some fantastic ponies (and some not so fantastic ones too), and they taught me a lot. None of them were push-button, but all taught me something different.

 

Who was the biggest influence for you with horses? Oooh, this is a tough question. My former stepmother, Vicky, is probably the reason I am still riding now – although I also probably knocked a couple of years off her life as she had to watch me get run away with so many times… ‘TURN A CIRCLE’ will be forever in my psyche. My mum also spent a lot of time traipsing around the countryside with me and my ponies. Other than that, I used to love to watch John Whitaker showjumping, and Paul Carberry was awesome to watch when I started to get into racing.

 

How did you get into racing? I headed to Newmarket in my gap year to earn some money before I went to university, and I became hooked! My family had point-to-pointers throughout my childhood and as I was growing up, and I had my first ride (if you can call it that!) when I was eighteen, on a horse owned by my family.

 

Trainers you have worked for and in what roles: My first job was with Paul Howling in Newmarket, but across the years, I have been lucky enough to work or ride out for trainers such as Tom George, Henry Daly, Lucy Wadham, Luca Cumani and Clive Brittain, amongst others. I was racing secretary for Henry Daly for maternity cover, and I looked after the travelling for Lucy Wadham for a couple of seasons. Plus, I had my first rides on the flat for Phil McEntee.


Were you a jockey? I’m not sure you can call it being a jockey, but I did ride a few times as an amateur on the Flat (but generally came last). I was fortunate enough to ride in point-to-points for several years, and took plenty of outside rides too, but only managed to record one winner (Salsero, who I also trained as well). It’s safe to say being a jockey was not my destiny…

 

Racing heroes: Rachel Blackmore has got to be up there. Not only is she a fantastic jockey, she is a great ambassador for the sport and has inspired so many female riders. Paul Carberry, as I’ve mentioned before, was a bit of a hero of mine, for his riding style and courage at what was a really influential time for me. And, of course, Richard Dunwoody was a huge hero when I was in my teens.

 

Roles in racing but not yard based: I’ve been a racing secretary, a stud secretary and now, I look after the marketing and communications for the BRS. I did also do a little bit of teaching at the BRS many years ago too. Also, I was the senior commercial executive at Chelmsford City Racecourse for five years.

Georgie and Salsero at Garthorpe, on Basaltico in 2009 and after that win at Ampton

 

Roles out of racing: Currently, my primary roles outside of racing are marketing/PR/comms based, both for a coaching and leadership organisations and also for music artists. I have previously founded and run a music festival and promoted several music events. 

 

Favourite racecourses: Horseheath has to be a favourite point-to-point course; it’s long and galloping and the fences need some jumping. Ampton also has to be on the list, as it’s where I rode my winner.

Cheltenham is obviously one of my favourite places, but also Chelmsford City too - although not so much for the racing, but for the fact, I joined when it opened and we were such a small team and we all put so much blood, sweat and tears into making it a success. We held some fantastic events there and I met some amazing people who I am lucky enough to still count as friends today.

 

Favourite meeting: The Grand National! It’s just like nowhere else, and I’ve been fortunate enough to lead up a winner on National day which was amazing, and Backbord ran a fantastic race there too, also on National day, and made me so proud. It’s just a happy place with some lovely memories.


What have been your best days in racing? Riding Salsero to win at Ampton has got to be my best. My grandmother owned him and we, as a family, hadn’t had a winner for years, and she was so happy and proud. The day Backbord won the Betfred Million Handicap Hurdle (pictured) at Ascot was also pretty special. He was a head down at the last and he battled so hard to beat the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Peacock. I was an emotional wreck!



Favourite racehorses: Backbord and Salsero. No contest! But I used to love to watch Moscow Flyer, and in general, the top-class two-mile chasers are just exhilarating to watch.

 

Hopes, dreams and aspirations for the future: I’m expecting a baby in May, so I just hope to be able to introduce it to my horses as soon as possible! Currently, I can’t think much further than that!


What do you love about working at the BRS? The work that goes on at the BRS is amazing. Not only is it a top-class education provider, but it is also such a worthy charity that gives hope and a career to so many people, who may well not have been able to achieve that without the BRS team.

There are countless stories from people who have suffered from poor mental health prior to coming to the BRS and who have then found their calling and been much better off, or students who have come from awfully deprived backgrounds with very little positivity but who have come to the BRS and gone on to have a successful career in racing. There are students to struggle to learn in mainstream education, but coming to BRS, whether for an apprenticeship or for the Flexible Learning Programme, sorts them out and they are able to thrive and achieve. The list is endless. And not only the student stories, but the staff who are so passionate about their jobs and about helping these young people.

It’s humbling. And, of course, the horses too - they are so kind, and they teach these students so much and are often never forgotten by past students.

 

Is social media positive or negative? Eek. Well, in my role as a social media consultant, I have to say it is positive right? And it does have many positive features. Social media makes everything so much more accessible; you can connect with people and create communities in a way that wasn’t available previously. Plus, I’d never remember any birthdays if it wasn’t for Facebook.

That said, there is obviously a darker side, it can be very addictive and it can create all sorts of image issues, especially in young people, and whilst it is so accessible that also makes it easier for keyboard warriors to abuse people or say nasty things that they would never usually say if face to face, which is of course a very negative aspect. I’m glad it wasn’t an option when I was in my teens, but if used properly and respectfully, it can be a positive thing and a very useful tool for both individuals and organisations. 

 

Why do you think the staffing crisis in racing occurred? I think racing, as a whole, is fairly resistant to change. There are a lot of older generations in positions of responsibility within racing and, whilst this isn’t always a bad thing at all, I think sometimes restricts the possibility of forward thinking and change making. The whole ‘but it’s always been this way’ is not a good answer (to most things!). People change, industries change, lifestyles change and to be resistant to those changes will eventually have an effect on the industry as a whole.

The role of the BHA also has a lot to answer for - there’s a lot of ideas, a lot of plans, a lot of different working parties, but there isn’t necessarily the equivalent amount of action that is actually led by example, from the top, and that is actionable by the wider industry too. (My personal view anyway.). Staff in racing do not work in the industry to get rich but because they love racing, the horses and the sport. They need to be respected for this, and actions taken to make this an easier life for them – and I’m talking in terms of working hours, remuneration, workplace culture. If racing wants to retain staff, they need to take a hard look at their own practices and see why they might currently not be attractive to people to stay.


How safe is the future of racing? That’s a good question. I think we’re sitting on a bit of a knife edge at the moment, and which way we will fall will depend on how it is led by the powers that be. It’s a tricky balance between acknowledging public perception isn’t always very good, but also being proud of the way racehorses are cared for, loved and looked after, which is a zillion times better than a large proportion of equines who aren’t in racing. I think more of a threat to the future of racing will be the lack of prize money and poor race planning.

 

Best racing party/celebration you've attended: Oooh, so many to think of. Maybe either the Galway Festival nightlife (the Hole in the Wall pub has so many memories for me), or afterparties in the Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool during the National meeting.

 

Favourite meal: Spaghetti Bolognese.

Favourite drink: Oasis tropical drink (but only when bought and drunk in France).

Favourite snack: Chocolate.

Favourite music: Country.

Favourite film: Top Gun.

Favourite book: I have read so many but I remember my favourite book as a child was The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge. It became the basis for the Moonacre film from a few years ago, which I haven't seen because I don't want to ruin the book!

Favourite holiday destination: France or Tennessee.

Other hobbies/interests: Watching live music, reading and generally just catching up with friends.


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