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Former TalkTalk boss Harding lined up to take Jockey Club reins

The businesswoman who oversaw the government's Test and Trace programme during the COVID-19 pandemic, is being lined up as the first female "chair" in the 273-year history of The Jockey Club.

Sky News has learnt that Baroness Harding is being proposed for election as The Jockey Club's senior steward, one of the most senior roles in British horseracing.

Industry sources said her nomination would be debated by Jocky Club members at a meeting next month.

A keen amateur jockey, Baroness Harding was appointed to the board of stewards in December 2017.

If elected, she will take over from Sandy Dudgeon next year.

The Jockey Club is governed by royal charter, and owns some of the UK's most famous racecourses, including Aintree - which hosts the Grand National - Newmarket and Sandown Park.

It employs more than 500 permanent staff.

A spokesperson for The Jockey Club said on Thursday: "Sandy Dudgeon's term as Senior Steward runs until July 2024 and we will announce his successor in due course."

Baroness Harding was chair of NHS Improvement until October 2021, having overseen the initial phases of the controversial Test and Trace programme after the pandemic began the previous year.

She ran TalkTalk, the telecoms group, and was previously an executive at J Sainsbury and Tesco, the supermarket chains.