Union J star JJ Hamblett returned to his racing roots on Saturday 2 August when presenting a trophy at the Alzheimer’s Research UK Charity Race Day in Newmarket. The former jockey turned boyband member and his family were special guests at the race meeting, which raised thousands of pounds for the UK’s leading dementia research charity.
JJ, who has supported Alzheimer’s Research UK since the band’s debut single Carry You catapulted them into the top 10 last year, grew up in Newmarket and enjoyed a four-year career in the saddle. He rode in 270 races, winning 24 of them. He was apprenticed by ten-time Champion trainer Sir Michael Stoute and even rode for the Queen.
JJ presented a trophy to the winning trainer and jockey in the third race of the afternoon, the Alzheimer’s Research UK EBF Fillies’ Maiden Stakes, alongside Alzheimer’s Research UK Chief Executive Rebecca Wood.
Around 7,400 people poured through the gates to watch the day’s racing. As well as enjoying seven top-class races, people bid on a silent auction and donated winnings into collection buckets to support pioneering dementia research.
JJ, who shot to fame on the ninth series of The X Factor in 2012, said of his return to the racecourse:
“It was quite surreal being back at the July Course after so long as the last time I was there I was racing. It was such an honour to be asked by Alzheimer’s Research UK to present one of the race trophies. It’s a fantastic charity working hard to find new treatments and I feel privileged to support them.
“My mum Karin works as a carer and she looks after people who are living with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. She’s so proud I’m involved with Alzheimer’s Research UK. Through her, I’m aware just how devastating dementia is. Since I began working with the charity a year ago I’ve heard from so many fans who have been affected by dementia in some way. Dementia affects the entire family, not just the person living with it, and I want to do everything I can to help raise awareness.”
“I haven’t sat on a horse since before The X Factor. I grew up riding horses all my life then to suddenly stop was really weird. It was really nice being back at the course to see the horses and watch them race.”
Miranda Johnson, Head of Corporate and Community Partnerships at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“We were so pleased JJ and his family could come along to our race day on Saturday. JJ’s a fantastic supporter of our work and despite being a member of one of the UK’s biggest boybands has always given his time to support the cause whenever he can.
“JJ has helped massively in raising the profile of dementia and the work being carried out by Alzheimer’s Research UK among young people. We rely on public support to fund our vital research, including people like JJ. We can’t thank him enough.”
Union J’s new single Tonight (We Live Forever) is released on August 17 and is the lead single from the group’s second studio album which will be released later this year.