When the 18-year-old takes to the beginning line on the Goodwood Pageant Thursday, surrounded by an oasis of inexperienced within the south of Engand countryside, it’ll appear a far cry from the venue wherein she’s extra accustomed to driving horses.
Thursday’s Magnolia Cup — the annual ladies-only charity race at “Wonderful Goodwood” — might be a momentous event for Mellah. On high of marking her aggressive racing debut, it’ll additionally make her the Cup’s first Muslim rider, in addition to the primary jockey to put on a hijab at a British racecourse.
The coed is the primary to confess that she’s one thing of an anomaly inside the horse racing neighborhood.
“I have been trying on the racing historical past and usually it is all simply center class white ladies,” Mellah tells CNN Sport.
“It is a good change to see somebody who is not usually racing to be racing. I really feel prefer it may open up doorways for folks and I like the concept I am beginning a little bit motion and shocking folks.”
When journey to driving facilities exterior London proved too costly, Mellah’s household found Brixton’s Ebony Horse Membership, a neighborhood driving and horse care heart meant to provide contemporary alternatives to younger folks dwelling in one among London’s most deprived areas.
The sight of horses trotting round within the coronary heart of London is an arresting one.
“Day in, day trip persons are passing by saying, ‘Oh my God, is horse? Is driving heart?'” says Mellah. “It is such a privilege to be concerned in such a distinct segment membership, there aren’t many prefer it.”
For the previous few weeks she has been dwelling and driving at Newmarket Racecourse in Suffolk, England preparation for the Magnolia Cup.
Coaching has been arduous, not least as a result of Mellah has needed to be taught to trip a thoroughbred racehorse from scratch.
Then there’s additionally been her schoolwork (she sat exams in physics, math and design and tech within the hope of reaching the grades to review engineering at college), her different pursuits (she had to surrender boxing), her half time job as a kids’s celebration supervisor and that she undertook a lot of her grueling coaching regime whereas fasting for Ramadan.
“I am fairly exhausted,” Mellah admits.
As for the driving, she says it took time to adapt to the brand new self-discipline, however after a couple of hiccups and falls quickly started to hit her stride.
“The primary time I sat on a racehorse was a few months in the past,” she continues. “Racehorses and thoroughbreds are only a totally different breed and it took me some time to grasp them.
“Clearly for those who do not perceive one thing, you are inclined to worry what you do not perceive … there was a sure factor of panic and worry, however fortunately I’ve acquired over that stage.”
Though not one of the Magnolia Cup opponents are skilled jockeys, they are going to be competing in a competition cluttered with well-known names and big-money races, notably the $1.25 million Qatar Sussex Stakes.
Mellah will line up alongside 11 different riders at Goodwood together with former observe bike owner and double Olympic gold medalist Victoria Pendleton and Irish mannequin Vogue Williams.
Despite the superstar lineup, it is Mellah who has achieved the lion share of media consideration within the buildup to the race, which has additionally included filming for a documentary about her journey.
Not that any of that’s phasing the teenager, who admitted to feeling “fairly chilled” a few weeks out from the occasion, the end result of which she hopes will encourage onlookers — be it on a horse or in one other stroll of life.
“There isn’t any cause why anybody cannot turn into good at a sport,” says Mellah. “So long as you set the arduous work and the trouble in, there isn’t any actual cause why you may’t be good at what you wish to do.”