Mine Behind was Newbury Diamond for Manser-Baines

The famous ladies’ amateur race on King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes day may now be a thing of the past, but success in the contest will always being among the most prized memories of Kylie Manser-Baines.

The event, which was run over seven furlongs, always came with the promise of a prize worth having – formerly a diamond necklace when De Beers were the sponsor and latterly a Longines watch.

Ascot has always been the venue of the race, with the exception of the 2005 renewal when the track was being redeveloped and Newbury stepped forward to host the fixture.

It was this stroke of luck, and the difference in the gradient between the two tracks, that gave Manser-Baines the best day of her amateur career.

Riding for John Best at the time, Manser-Baines was assured her mount, Mine Behind, would not stay the distance but the switch to Newbury’s flat track made all the difference when the horse, historically a sprinter, stepped up in trip.

Manser-Baines said: “I was really lucky that both my second and third rides were winners, so I thought ‘this is easy, I’m going to ride in this big diamond race’, but you had to have 10 rides.

“The first year I couldn’t ride in it, but the second year I said to my boss, John Best, that I was going to ride in it but he said we didn’t have a suitable horse.

“It’s a really hard for an owner to put you up as an amateur, I wasn’t very good but I was very, very competitive and I still am!

“I said I was going to ring the owner of Mine Behind because I knew the horse and looked after him at home. I said he was the only horse that could run in the race even though it wasn’t his trip. They said ‘oh he’s been running rubbish anyway, just enter him!’.

“It was the year that Ascot was being done up, so it was held at Newbury – if it was held at Ascot he definitely wouldn’t have got the trip. It’s seven furlongs and everyone thinks the track is flat at Ascot but it’s a bit of a stiff finish, I was lucky that it was at Newbury which is an easy, flat, galloping track.

“He was such an easy horse, you could canter down to post on the buckle end. My boss didn’t come that day, he was at another meeting, so my friend drove the box and the owner was there.

“My boss said to me ‘just keep hold of him or he won’t get home, it’s too long for him’ and I jumped out of the stalls, he never pulled, he was the best ride ever, but he was wanting to get to the front and I thought if I kept tucking him away he was going to get the hump.

“So I kicked on from miles out, it was very untidy, very scruffy. Luckily he held on, but the boss said ‘you kicked too soon’. The owners were over the moon, it was my first time riding in it and I got really lucky, everything fell my way.”

Manser-Baines graduated from amateur to apprentice, selling the necklace to fund the car she used to travel the country during her riding career.

She said: “The necklace was beautiful, but I have to admit I did sell it to buy a car. I kept the car for years and years and it got me around the country when I was riding. It was a beautiful necklace, but I couldn’t wear it every day as I didn’t dare and I really needed a car!

“I stopped riding in 2012, I was never the best jockey and my ability and my weight definitely held me back. It was great fun and I miss it a lot. I have two very good jobs now but nothing compares to it really.”

The two jobs in question are vastly different as Manser-Baines retains her racing connection by retraining and rehoming racehorses but is also a full-time firefighter.

She found the retraining work came to her effortlessly after her riding career ended and she gained a reputation as being a skilled horsewoman that would ensure the horses in her care were responsibly rehomed, whereas the firefighting followed when she decided to balance her time on the yard with another profession.

“People think that we don’t care about them after racing, which is absolute rubbish. We have the horses at home and it is lovely, it’s all I’ve ever wanted but it is hard work,” she said.

“Twelve years ago it was really hard to rehome an ex-racehorse, no one wanted them and the amount of people doing what I do was in the single figures. Even the worst rider in racing can still really ride, whereas outside of racing people often can’t handle them and as they were the cheapest horses you could get, they could end up in unsuitable homes.

“Now there are a lot of people doing what I’m doing, which is a good thing, there’s lots of people that want thoroughbreds and lots of people to retrain them. Trainers aren’t giving them away and they shouldn’t because they have got a value.

“I really care about where they end up so I’m probably the worst retrainer in a way! The best from a trainer’s point of view but the worst from a business point of view because I care so much about where they go.

“I’ve still got all my racing contacts and I get a nice, steady trickle of horses, and each year I also have a broodmare and try to breed a decent racehorse.

“I’ve got a mare called Bungledupinblue, by Bungle Inthejungle, who has been covered by Sergei Prokofiev. He was a Coolmore horse who will have his first runners next year.

“This year I was watching how all the Bungle Inthejungles were doing, next year I’ll be watching how all the Sergei Prokofievs are getting on.

“It’s nice to have an interest, I’ve got a lot of friends in racing still and it’s lovely to follow the racing and have a connection with it.”

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