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Channel 4 racing presenter Rishi Persad gears up for the St Patrick's Derby

By Weekend  |  Posted: March 12, 2014

Rishi Persad in training

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Broadcaster Rishi Persad doesn’t ride, is allergic to horses and admits he’s not fit.

Despite all that, he’ll be one of 12 riders lining up to take part in The Festival’s St Patrick’s Derby, a charity flat race of a mile and five furlongs on Thursday in aid of Cancer Research UK.

Rishi, who works for Channel 4, said: “Taking part in the race was not something I’d considered until the producer of Morning Line said it would be interesting if I thought about training and riding.

“The fact that the race is for charity tipped the balance. I thought, if it will raise money for charity and help me get fitter, why not?

"I’m 40, I’ll do something reckless.”

Despite his long career in racing, Rishi hadn’t ridden a horse since his youth.

“I sat on horses when I was a child but I had never ridden one properly until eight weeks ago,” he said.

“Until then, I hadn’t sat on a horse in 20 years.”

For the past two months, in addition to his full-time job, Rishi has maintained an intensive training programme in preparation for the race.

“I’m the fittest I’ve ever been in my life. I ride for about an hour, two or three times a week and I run on the days I don’t ride.

“I trot around a seven furlong gallop twice, then I canter round it one and a half times, pause for a break, then canter round it again.

“After the first canter my legs are burning.”

Rishi admitted he has found the training tough and was nervous about the race.

“The routine of regularly doing something I’m scared of hasn’t been easy.

“The most challenging aspect has been conquering my anxious feelings towards racing and increasing my physical strength and fitness.

"Every day I ride I feel like I did as a child the night before school started, I have butterflies.

“I imagine all the things that could go wrong when racing in front of 50,000 people and my excitement is suppressed by anxiety.”

Rishi has so far raised £5,000 for Cancer Research UK and is keen to make a difference to those suffering from the disease.

“My uncle was diagnosed with cancer in November so he’s providing my inspiration. I’m glad I can help by doing something positive and proactive.

“I haven’t set myself a goal. I just want to raise as much money as I can."

The St Patrick's Derby takes place at 5.15pm tomorrow during St Patrick's Thursday at The Festival.

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