by Graham Clark
Leading racehorse owner Andrew Gemmell believes the UK’s first ever “sensory” raceday experience at Market Rasen on Sunday (31st July) will help raise awareness in the sport of those living with sight and hearing impairments.
Gemmell, who was born blind and is best known for his association with 2019 Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle hero Paisley Park, hopes the public get behind the event, which is part of the Family Extravaganza Raceday at the Lincolnshire venue, to make it a real success.
Run in conjunction with Deafblind UK, Market Rasen’s charity partner who will receive £1 from every pre-booked ticket sold, the new innovation will see the big screens feature a sign language interpreter as part of the commentary for all seven races.
A dedicated area will also be set aside by the last fence to enhance the sensory experience for those with audio or visual impairments, while for two of the races both the raceday presenter and commentator will be briefed to include extra creative descriptive details aimed at the visually impaired.
Gemmell knows only too well how rewarding horseracing can be for those who follow the action with visual or audio impairments and believes live commentary at venues for those attending helps the sport stand out from others.
He said: “I hope this day is really well attended and that it goes well. It is great that Deafblind UK is sponsoring the card as it will definitely help raise more awareness of those living with these conditions.
“I had Hang In There win at the track on Summer Plate Day and they really do their best at Market Rasen to help you and make sure you have a good day.
“There is always room to do more but racing does do a lot for people like myself to still enjoy the sport. One big advantage is having the commentary to ensure you can enjoy the experience and hear all that is going on which is not the same at all sports.
“When you have a disability like this, you can’t afford to let it hold you back and it never has in my case.”
Although Gemmell has owned and raced horses in his own silks since for around 15 years, his affection and association with the sport stretches back to his childhood.
He continued: “It was during those long summer holidays that I first got into racing. I listened to the cricket on the radio and if it wasn’t the cricket it was the racing.
“I just really enjoyed the big races as you do at first like the Grand National and the Derby then it was the other Classics.
“I was then bitten by the bug when I backed my first winner, which was Team Spirit in the 1964 Grand National.
“I used to follow the likes of Lester Piggott and I remember George Moore and Noel Murless teaming up to win the 1967 2000 Guineas and Derby with Royal Palace. As time went on I just got more and more into it.
“In the summer holidays my parents used to take me to York to watch the Ebor, although I remember Brigadier Gerard getting beaten there.”
Before branching out on his own Gemmell started his journey into racehorse ownership after being involved in a variety of syndicates, and he believes the buzz of tasting victory is something that can be enjoyed by everyone.
He said: “It was 1997 that I first joined Million In Mind then while I was out in Australia I was speaking to someone who was involved with a syndicate with Peter Harris on the Flat and then a few years later I joined Favourites Racing.
“I was in Australia in either 2006 or 2007 and that is where I met Emma Lavelle’s brother. He gave me her number and I then got my first horse on my own with her in 2007.
“Peter Beaumont was selling some of his horses including one called Seymar Lad and it ended up winning its first race for me at Southwell in 2008 and Noel Fehily rode it.
“It was an unreal feeling and just brilliant. After that you think winning is easy but unfortunately it is not like that all the time!
“The great thing though I find about going racing as an owner is that it is all inclusive.”
When it comes to his greatest moment as an owner the victory secured by the Emma Lavelle-trained Paisley Park at Cheltenham in the 2019 Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle at the Festival stands above everything else.
With the 10 year old, who has won the last three renewals of the Grade Two Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham, about to finish his summer break Gemmell hopes to savour more big race victories with his pride and joy this season.
He added: “I’ve had plenty of good winners but the undoubted highlight was Paisley Park winning the 2019 Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.
“There was all the hype beforehand then he made the mistake at the last. It was a great day and something I won’t forget. I went to see him a couple of weeks ago and he seems well.
“The race wasn’t run to suit him at Punchestown but he still stayed on and at Cheltenham we thought he was second but he was just pipped but we were really pleased.
“He will take a similar route again and all being well he will be back there at Cheltenham in March.”
Tickets for Family Extravaganza Raceday are still available via https://www.thejockeyclub.co.uk/marketrasen/. Prices start at just £12, with £1 from every pre-booked ticket donated to Deafblind UK.
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