By Helen Willis, General Manager at Carlisle Racecourse

I’m a great believer that there is no better way to start a new job than by throwing yourself headfirst into it from the very beginning - and that’s certainly going to be the case for me!

Having been appointed General Manager of Carlisle Racecourse in July, we’re preparing to host five fixtures in August, including our busiest raceday of all, the VL Aesthetics Ladies Night on Monday, August 1.

So, while I’m still getting my bearings in terms of local geography, where my local shops are and the quickest route to work, it’s certainly a great time of year to have joined the team.

Racing has always been a part of my family and I joined The Jockey Club in March 2021 as a customer relations executive. I was then appointed as trainee general manager in February of this year and during the last six months I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked on some of our sport’s biggest events, including the Cheltenham Festival, Randox Grand National at Aintree and the Cazoo Derby at Epsom Downs.

I’ve also spent a lot of time supporting the teams at our other courses, whether at fixtures or on non-racedays, which has helped give me an understanding and appreciation of the different roles our colleagues play and the challenges and opportunities our venues face.

So while this is my first General Manager role in horseracing, I’m absolutely thrilled to have been given the opportunity and I take up my position with the racecourse in fantastic shape. All the praise for that must go to Molly Dingwall, who after four-and-a-half years has moved to another Jockey Club course, Haydock Park.

Molly has worked tirelessly to put Carlisle Racecourse at the heart of the community, building and maintaining relationships with local businesses, organisations, charities and people and my priority is to continue that.

It’s been important to get to know all of the team here since my first day on Wednesday, July 13 and they’ve been fantastic in helping me settle in. It’s clear just how passionate everyone is about what they do and I’m looking forward to my first meeting, which just happens to be Ladies Night.

I’m sure you don’t need me to explain what a superb evening in the local calendar it is, but it’s also a significant one for the sport, being the only fixture in British racing at which every jockey in every race is female.

It’s an important initiative to help riders who might otherwise struggle for opportunities at meetings like this and there is always a fantastic story or two. Just ask Fern O’Brien, who rode last year rode in a race under Rules for the very first time just days after turning 16 – and won!

Tickets are just £20 and there is always a fabulous crowd and atmosphere. Everyone is in fantastic spirits and we also have a DJ set after racing from the ever-popular Martin Kemp.

We also have two Steak Night race meetings in August, which offer a brilliant two-course steak experience in our restaurant for just £50 per person. Tickets are selling fast for our first of these evenings on Tuesday 9th August, so be quick if you would like to join us.

Our Carlisle Youth Zone Raceday also takes place on Friday 19th August, a fixture we stage in support of a local charity which does some wonderful work in the community and I can’t wait to meet them. There will be plenty of free entertainment for the children, including an arcade tent with a host of games with free entry to the racecourse for under 18s.

As always we encourage all racegoers to find out more information about our events and purchase tickets in advance from our website -

While it’s been nice to introduce myself here, there really is no substitute for meeting in person, so whenever you’re next racing with us at Carlisle please do come and say hello. I look forward to seeing you soon!