‘Fast and furious’: Behind the scenes at the Olympia Shetland Pony racing training camp

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  • Ahead of Olympia this year (17-23 December), racing legends AP McCoy and Bob Champion gave the young jockeys going head-to-head in the Osborne Refrigerators Shetland Pony Grand National some top tips during a training session at Ascot Racecourse.

    The 2018 line-up for the Osborne Refrigerators Shetland Pony Grand National at Olympia Horse Show features some bright young names who have racing in their genes, including Olive Nicholls, daughter of 10-time champion jump trainer Paul Nicholls, Alice Crowley, daughter of 2016 champion Flat jockey Jim Crowley and Lucy Aspell, whose father, Leighton, is a dual Grand National-winning jockey.

    Archie Gubb pops a fence in style. The jockeys are required to be aged 8-14 and must be under 5ft tall. The pint-sized combinations race around a temporary “track” put up in Olympia’s Grand Hall, jumping obstacles mimicking those at the Aintree Grand National — only in miniature form! The event is the pinnacle of the Shetland Pony Grand National calendar and is always popular with spectators during the festive horse show.

    AP McCoy and Bob Champion give young jockeys, Lucy Aspell, Daisy Harrop, Lucas Murphy and Archie Gubb, some top tips ahead of Olympia. It is always a fun-filled event, however, there is also a real spirit of competitiveness among the riders. Many of them are aiming to emulate past competitors, who have graduated to become professional jockeys, including Sam Twiston-Davies and Tom Garner.

    Lucas Murphy and Lucy Aspell during the training session at Ascot. Nine-year-old Lucas, whose father, Timmy, rode over 1,000 winners as a professional jockey, is a new young talent to emerge from Gloucestershire, while Lucy will be returning for her second successive year at Olympia.

    Archie Gubb enjoys a cuddle with his pony ahead of the training session, while final turnout preparations are made.

    Finley Murphy stays warm in a very apt onesie before tacking up for the training session at Ascot.

    Bob Champion poses with young jockey Archie Gubb and his pony. All proceeds from the Shetland Pony Grand National will go to the nominated charity, The Bob Champion Cancer Trust. Founded in 1983, the charity has raised an incredible £16million for cancer research and will be the direct beneficiary of the money raised by the young jockeys — who last year managed to raise a terrific £42,500.

    AP McCoy and Bob Champion with the young jockeys in the paddock at Ascot before heading out onto the racecourse.

    Olympia Horse Show runs until 23 December. For more information please visit olympiahorseshow.com

    Don’t miss H&H’s extensive coverage. Check out dressage and Wednesday-Saturday showjumping reports in the 28 December issue (out Friday, not Thursday this week because of Christmas schedules), while showing, driving and Sunday showjumping coverage will be in the 3 January 2019 issue.

    Do you have a topic you’d like to share with H&H readers? Then write to hhletters@ti-media.com for a chance to see your views in H&H magazine and win a bottle of Champagne Taittinger (please include your name and address; letters may be edited). 

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