Twelve amateur jockeys have been chosen to take part in a once in a lifetime charity challenge at York Racecourse.

Known as the Ernest Cooper Macmillan Ride of their Lives, the challenge will see members of the public completing six months of intense jockey training before racing thoroughbred horses on York’s iconic course. 

Twelve riders have each pledged to raise at least £3,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support and can expect to race in front of more than 25,000 people on the day. Ernest Cooper Macmillan Ride of their Lives will be the last race of the day at Macmillan Charity Raceday on Saturday 13 June 2020.

SJ Barker, 38, from Westow, a village between York and Malton, is among this year’s selected riders. SJ runs the family thoroughbred breeding operation, as well as the highly successful Ryedale Mumbler website she said:

“I’ve ridden horses all my life but never ridden a racehorse until a fortnight ago.

“For a long time I’ve bred horses which we sell on in the hope they’ll become race horses, I now have the opportunity to ride one of these fabulous horses, it’s so exciting.

“I’m thrilled to be riding at York racecourse, my home track.”

SJ joins six other riders from across York and Ryedale; along with the other riders SJ has pledged to raise a minimum of £3,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support, she explains her motivation:

“Cancer can affect anyone at any time and I, like many others have not been untouched by cancer.

“I’m riding this race in memory of my cousin, taken too soon by this horrible disease.”   

The Ernest Cooper Macmillan Ride of their Lives regularly raises more than £100,000 for Macmillan, the charity race day raised a total of £660,000 for Macmillan in 2019. 

To celebrate the 50-year partnership between York racecourse and Macmillan all money raised from this years’ race will go directly into supporting people across Yorkshire. Macmillan Cancer Support provides emotional, financial, medical and practical support to the growing number of people living with cancer across the region.

Jamie Davenport from Macmillan Cancer Support, said:

“Ernest Cooper Macmillan Ride of their Lives really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and we wish these amazing people the very best of luck.

 “Every penny they raise goes into funding our fabulous Macmillan nurses, information and support workers and services across the region.

“Life is never the same after a cancer diagnosis and to mark our 50th anniversary we want to raise even more to ensure we’re there for people across Yorkshire at diagnosis and beyond.”


Lee Cooper, Director at Ernest Cooper, said:

“We are proud to be sponsoring the Ernest Cooper Macmillan Ride of their Lives for the second year running and we’re thrilled to be part of this special 50th anniversary year.  

“These incredible people are doing something amazing for a great cause, the commitment cannot be underestimated.

“We wish them all the very best of luck as they work towards being on the famous Knavesmire start line on Saturday 13 June 2020.”

James Brennan, Head of Marketing and Sponsorship at York Racecourse said:

“Macmillan Charity Raceday is the longest running charity raceday in the country, the day of top class racing under rules as well as fundraising has been held annually since 1971.

“Together with Macmillan and its many supporters, the day has raised an incredible £8.5 million in total over those years. Last year alone the charity race day raised £660,000.

“We’re proud to be working with such a fantastic charity again and delighted that all the money raised in the 50th anniversary year will go back into Yorkshire Macmillan services to support people locally.”

Racing fans can support this fabulous day of fundraising just by attending, so doing a good thing for a great cause while having a fantastic day out.