THIS year’s Macmillan Ride of their Lives 2018 will feature three amateur riders from Ryedale. Over the next three weeks we’ll feature each rider. First up Jill Boak from Malton. DAVID MACKIE reports

ONE of the 11 riders taking part in the Macmillan Ride of their Lives on June 16 this year is Jill Boak, 43, from Malton.

Jill’s father, Mark Birch, was a seven-times top northern jockey with Peter Easterby’s stables, and then assistant trainer to Kevin Ryan at Sutton Bank following retirement from race riding.

He died of lung cancer in October 2016, aged 67.

Jill said that she needed to do something in his memory that would also raise money for cancer support. Not long after, she read about the Macmillan Ride of their Lives race.

She said: “I just knew I had to do it.”

She spoke with people who had done if before and people involved in its organisation.

“They said, ‘get fit first’,” she said. “You can’t go from zero to hero in six months. So I deferred my application to this year.”

She hit the gym at Jack Berry House in Malton in January 2017. “My work paid off and I got in this year,” she said.

The Best Western Hotels and Macmillan Ride of Their Lives will take place at York Race Course on June 16. The 11 amateurs will ride the last race of the day in front of huge crowds of tens of thousands of people.

Jill said that the raceday itself will be emotional.

“Dad’s ashes were scattered at the winning post at York racecourse,” she said. “He’s got a plaque there as well. I will have to fill his boots for the day.

“I feel nervous but very excited. It’s going to be emotional and difficult, but I’ll focus on the job at hand. You just have to block out the 25,000 people watching.”

She said that she rode ponies growing up, but has ridden very little since leaving home aged 18.

“I’d never ridden a race horse at all really before last year,” she said. “Literally the first time I got on a race horse I fell off because I didn’t know how to stop. It’s completely different to riding a pony.

“The first thing I learned was how to stop it.”

All the riders fundraise for Macmillan in the months leading up to the race.

Jill is organising flyers and posters, a collection at Beverley races, and will be doing a video diary on social media.

She is also organising a charity gig by her husband Steven’s band Budda Side Down, and she said there are other things in the pipeline.

Her target is a £13,390. Her dad had 1,339 winners. Her target equates to £10 for every race he won. Find Jill’s fundraising page at