Show jumping and thoroughbred racing is joining forces at Ascot Racecourse this weekend for the first ever “speed jumping” competition.

The £20,000 Ladbrokes Speed Jumping Challenge will see 16 of the UK’s top show jumpers, including Nick Skelton, Robert Smith and John Whitaker, racing each other over seven fences down the final furlong of the National Hunt course.

There will be four identical, colour-coded lanes and the riders will be numbered one to 16, based on the combined ranking of horse and rider. The winner will be the first past the post with the fewest fences down.

There are four great minds behind the new speed jumping concept: John Inverdale, (pictured) a leading sport broadcaster; Simon Jameson, a brand image expert; Nick Skelton, one of the UK’s most successful show jumpers; and Charlie Brooks, former horse trainer turned media pundit.

“I can remember a time when show jumping received huge television audiences and was a regular fixture on our television screens. Coverage of the sport has reduced considerably and I am very hopeful that we can rekindle the audience’s passion and interests with speed jumping,” says John.

The competition will take place on NSPCC Family Day (Sunday 28 September) during the 2003 Ascot Festival. The afternoon’s action will begin at 1.15pm and will be made up of four heats of four riders. The first two riders in each heat will progress to the semi finals, at 2.35pm, and the top two in each semi will contest in the final, at 4.00pm.

Action from the Ascot Festival, including the speed jumping final, will be broadcast on Sunday Grandstand on BBC2 between 1pm and 5.15pm.