The teams for the 2015 Vision Varsity Horse Race at Newmarket’s Rowley Mile Racecourse next weekend have been announced, with James Alexander captaining the defending champions Cambridge University and Alice Stables leading the way for Oxford University.
The one mile contest will be run as the first race on day two of the Dubai Future Champions Festival (October 10), a two-day festival which boasts total prize money of over £2 million and features Europe’s two richest Group One two-year-old races in the Dubai Dewhurst Stakes and the Dubai Fillies’ Mile.
All the riders are current students at Britain’s top two universities, and many of them had never ridden a racehorse before training for this race began in the spring.
Cambridge captain Alexander is the only person on either side to have taken part in last year’s inaugural Vision Varsity Horse Race, having finished fourth aboard Harry Bosch to help Cambridge complete a resounding victory in the team competition in 2014.
“Riding in last year’s race was incredible,” he said. “It was very nerve-wracking, especially on the way to the start when at one point I thought that I might fall off!
“But once I got down to the start it was as if a switch had been flipped and I was able to concentrate on doing my thing.
“The last few months have been pretty intense as I have been getting up at 5.30am to ride out in Newmarket and then rushing back to Cambridge in time for the start of the day.
“At times I have been doing 60-hour weeks at the Veterinary School on top of my training. I’ve had to sacrifice sleep and my social life has been nonexistent.
“Any Oxbridge student will tell you that in sporting terms the Varsity is the biggest thing and with me, as with most other people, it will represent the pinnacle of my sporting career.
“It’s all about the team and seeing Cambridge finish ahead of Oxford. I would happily finish stone last as long as my teammates lift the trophy.”