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Using RUS America as its role model, a group of individuals have come together to share their interest in saddle racing and in doing so, have formed RUS UK, a fundraising committee aiming to promote harness racing and the Standardbred breed to a wider audience. Harness racing under saddle was historically popular in the UK, with many of today's top drivers recalling their days in the saddle at the beginning of their careers. After a number of dormant years, in 2013 saddle racing was reintroduced at Appleby Spring Festival by the committee responsible for organising and promoting the fixture. Despite its novelty value, the race was hailed as a success as the then 16-year-old Lauren Moran stormed to victory on the pacing gelding, Ladyford Lad, owned by Lisa Farrelly. The duo went on to win again at the track later in the season in the saddle race at the Brough meeting. As an incentive to attract new jockeys to the sport, the sport's governing body, the British Harness Racing Club (BHRC), offered the first year's saddle licence free for new members. As a result of this, there are a number of licence holders who solely hold a saddle licence, and whose involvement in the sport is limited solely to competing under saddle. Despite the incentives and the obvious attraction for youngsters from riding backgrounds, racing under saddle struggled to take off with only a handful of races being staged in the subsequent three seasons, primarily in the north east of England and Scotland. Frustrated with the lack of support for saddle racing but still believing there was a gap in the market for the venture, Lisa and her partner, driver Gregor Menzies, along with Lauren Moran, set about organising a saddle race at York Harness Raceway on Saturday 8th October. With the date also playing host to the annual Camden Stud Yearling Sale, the trio knew that this was an opportunity to showcase racing under saddle to a much wider audience, with bumper crowds expected. Offers of sponsorship soon began flooding in, which prompted Lisa to consider the idea of a fundraising committee solely focussing on raising funds to stage similar races across the country. Lisa approached Lauren [Moran], driver Carol McPhail, raceframer Karen Kennedy and owner and trainer Sarah Thomas with a view to them joining the committee. Driven by a passion not only for harness racing but also for promoting Standardbreds for other disciplines, the group formed Racing Under Saddle UK, or RUS UK. Speaking about the aims and objectives of RUS UK, Lisa said 'I hope to attract newcomers that are interested in the riding side of racing, as well as racegoers who would like to be more involved. There are an increasing number of Standardbred owners who ride them in other disciplines, which shows how versatile they can be. Racing under saddle would perhaps interest these people in attending harness race meetings or even getting involved in owning and training a Standardbred for racing and not simply for other disciplines'. 'Our goal is to stage several saddles races next year for both pacers and trotters. Ultimately it would be my goal to see the best of the best racing under saddle!'. The group have set up a social media page (www.facebook.com/saddleracing) which, although in its infancy, will hopefully become the focal point for news and events related to the venture. The first event being promoted on the site will be run this coming weekend at York Harness Raceway. The Daniel Welling Memorial Saddle Race on Saturday 8th October sees eight pacers face the starter. Entry to the event is free, with prize money down to last place, as well as headcollars and lead ropes for all competitors, and a rug, trophy and sash to the winner. Of the eight competitors, six have never raced under saddle before. Crackaway Jack (Charlene Collingwood), Fire Starter (Savannah Nicholson), Meadowbranch Dewey (Lucy Branthwaite), Rush Around (Annwen Evans), Rhyds Solution (Andrew Glass) and Imjustalittleguy (Scott Murray) are all new to the saddle racing scene, although have varied ridden experience off the track. Sureamsomething (Melissa Osgood) has raced under saddle on four occasions, with a second and third finish to her name, and Merrington Motion completes the line up as the most accomplished saddle racer in the field, with two wins and a second from three starts under saddle. Alana Hay has been confirmed as the jockey for Merrington Motion, the mare comes into the race off the back of a strong finish at the track last week where she finished second. Meadowbranch Dewey is looking for back-to-back wins at the track after an impressive performance last week where he displayed scorching gate speed in the sulky. Crackaway Jack was a strong-finishing fourth in his race on the same date and Imjustalittleguy also ran credibly to finish second in sloppy conditions after heavy rain fell later in the day. It is hoped that this race will be the springboard from which racing under saddle in the UK can grow and expand to other tracks in England, Scotland and Wales, to include trotters as well as pacers. Sarah Thomas, for Harnesslink            

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