Holgate kids back a winner with a day at Doncaster races

NICE TO MEET YOU -- 12-year-old Holgate pupil Alice Thompson meets one of the racehorses, Who's Shirl, who went on to win her race at Doncaster.
NICE TO MEET YOU -- 12-year-old Holgate pupil Alice Thompson meets one of the racehorses, Who's Shirl, who went on to win her race at Doncaster.

Youngsters at The Holgate Academy in Hucknall backed a winner when they had a day out at Doncaster Racecourse.

Not literally, of course, because they’re not allowed to bet! But definitely in terms of an enjoyable educational experience.

The years seven and eight pupils met one of the racehorses, the nine-year-old mare, Who’s Shirl, who went on to win the first race at odds of 25/1! They tried on jockeys’ silks. And they even staged their own race, running out of the starting stalls!

It was all part of an education programme, called Racing To School, that has been set up by the horse-racing industry and is offered free to schools up and down the country.

The programme enriches a range of school subjects, sparks interest in the sport and opens minds to the varied career opportunities in the industry.

Racing offers many opportunities for exploring subjects in a practical way. For instance, weights and measures, which the Holgate youngsters investigated in the jockeys’ weighing room. Also the art and symmetry used in jockeys’ colours, the science of a jockey’s diet and nutrition, and the geometry of the construction of fences.

The programme includes unique behind-the-scenes access, and the 11-to-13-year-olds from Holgate visited Doncaster’s stables, jockeys’ sauna, and one of the course’s private hospitality boxes, where they were based for the day.

They calculated how many horses could fit into the parade ring, they found out exactly what a furlong is, and after lunch, they studied the racecard in detail before watching the day’s races.

The trip was led by Holgate teachers Laura Boultby and Katie Jones, who said the youngsters, most of whom had never been racing before, found the day “very exciting”.

Pupil Freya Dunstan said: “It was amazing and enjoyable. A great experience and awesome!” Daisy Medley simply added: “Epic!”

A Racing To School spokesman said: “Few sports offer as many chances to practise school subjects in real-life settings. Racing is vibrant and colourful. Every aspect of it enhances children’s learning.”