Leaps of faith

When Frankie talks about his love of racing, all roads lead back to his home town of Cheltenham. Now the former Love Island star is on a mission to attract more young people to the sport, he tells Henry Beesley

When did you first fall in love with racing?

I was lucky – my first ever experience was the Cheltenham Gold Cup. It doesn’t get much better than that! From then on, I was hooked. I think if you started off at a smaller meeting, you might need to warm yourself up to racing. Funnily enough, I didn’t even see a horse that day; it was all about the day out. Since then, however, I’ve really grown to love the sport.

The one horse that really got me into it was Defi Du Seuil. A couple of the lads that I go racing with love that horse, and we backed it every time it ran. Luckily, he had a great record at Cheltenham. He won the Triumph Hurdle, and then the day he won the JLT Chase at the Festival was just incredible. Barry Geraghty was brilliant on him in that race, and we roared Defi home as he took it up after the last.

That buzz of backing a horse as a team of mates, having a big day out, following the season together and then ending up at Cheltenham makes it really special for me.

Is racing in your family?

It’s not, no. My uncle is a massive racing fan and grew up with Graham Bradley, who was champion jockey, so there is a slight connection. But I didn’t grow up around horses. The first time I went racing, I couldn’t tell you anything about a horse. Over time I’ve been lucky enough to go and do a few yard visits, meet jockeys and trainers, and get more and more engrossed in the sport. That’s what I love about racing too – there really are so many layers to it.

Do you think it is important to have friends or family in racing to get into the sport?

Not at all. The one thing I always try and get across to a lot of people is that you don’t need be a ‘horsey’ person to engage with the sport. You can have a brilliant day out knowing absolutely nothing. And I encourage people to do that, because if you do, and then keep on coming back, you will pick up things. The only thing I knew was how to stand at the bar.

What would be your main advice for anyone getting into the sport?

Number one: just go. Don’t put a question mark on whether it’s ‘for you’. It’s a brilliant day out for everyone. Get a group of mates together, get dressed up, pick a popular meeting and it will all snowball from there. That will be enough for a lot of people.If you’re watching at home without a subscription, ITV does a great job of capturing the buzz of a day at the races. In terms of media I’d certainly start there, rather than podcasts, which can sometimes be a bit too ‘in the know’.

Do you think you’ll be able to boost young people’s interest in racing?

I think so. Well, I hope so! That’s what I’m on a mission to do. As I’ve said, I am a big advocate of the day out as a concept. There’s nothing wrong with starting there and then getting into the actual sport afterwards. The more people you get through the turnstiles, the more you give racing a chance to showcase its exceptional qualities. When people see the horses run in the flesh, that’s when the magic starts.

It also all about removing the stigma around being a part of the racing world, and not feeling imposter syndrome. It does also feel already that there are lots of young people engaged with the sport. It is doing a great job and I’d love to help keep on moving it in the right direction.

I do follow the racing all year round and I study the form as much as I can, but I would be lying if I didn’t say passion takes over occasionally! I often do back a horse that I want to win, rather than one I think is most likely – not the smartest thing to do.

The way I follow racing – and maybe this is because I grew up here – is quite Cheltenham-focused. A lot of people, quite rightly, say there’s a lot more to racing than that, but I like to follow horses throughout the season all the way through to the Festival.

What are your ambitions in racing?

More of the same. In the last four months, I’ve met so many people and got further engrossed in the sport than ever before but there’s still so much more to do. The one thing I do really want to do is showcase the sport in all its glory, and peel back the layers to all those people who used to be just like me.

Frankie Foster is a presenter for Racing TV and has a dedicated racing profile on Instagram @frankiefosterracing.

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