TEARS rolled down the cheeks of young jockey Katie Powell as she prepared for her first ride on a racecourse.

She took a photograph from her kitbag and slid it inside her left boot for luck, writes Brian Radford

It showed Katie in the arms of her cherished grandad, David Ratcliff, at her church Christening, when she was just eight months old.

David, who ran The Swan Hotel in Hay, died exactly four years to the day of the race, aged 86.

Katie vividly remembered watching him buy every unsold pony at local horse sales to save them from slaughter, and then sold them on.

Talented Katie, 18, said: “It was a massive emotional moment. I was getting myself ready for my first race, and I felt quite nervous.

“But when I looked at the photo, it lifted me up. I really felt he was there, and wishing me luck.

“I’d also sung his favourite song all the way down. He absolutely loved Tina Turner’s smash hit, Simply the Best.

“And mum had his cigar-box, and flat cap in her handbag.”

Katie was at Exeter racecourse to ride her ‘big mate’ Knight Commander, trained by Sheila Lewis.

It was a partnership made in heaven, you might say, as they came from last to first, and crossed the line with more than three lengths to spare, at odds of 11-4.

And two days later, Katie placed the photo inside her body protector and, she cruised home on Stupid Cupid at Ludow, at odds of 11-1, and once more saluted her grandad.

With a chuckle, she said, “I wonder if he’s betting them up there? Probably not, he wasn’t one to take risks.”

Sheila, who trains Cupid Stupid for her father, Brian, at Three Cocks, near Hay, was landing her fifth winner in a row, having saddled a 1,182-1 treble at Hereford a few days earlier.

Referring back to Exeter, Sheila said: “I’ve never experienced anything like it. Tears poured down our faces, and there was lots of shouting, and leaping up and down.

“Katie is a gifted rider, and a wonderful worker. Knight Commander leans out of his box every morning at six, waiting for her to arrive.”

Katie, who weighs in at just 8st 2lb, added: “I trembled so much, I could hardly carry the heavy saddle.

“And I looked up to the sky, and gave a big ‘thumbs up’ and said, “Thanks, grandad! We did it!”

Katie and Knight Commander resume at Taunton on Wednesday, and confidence is high.