‘I was a little sore for a few days’: jockeys take on ultimate heptathlon challenge

Top Flat jockeys James Doyle and Harry Bentley were put through their paces in a sport completely unknown to them.

Commonwealth Games heptathlon champion Katarina Johnson-Thompson, who is also a QIPCO British Champions Series ambassador, set the pair the ultimate heptathlon challenge.

She taught James and Harry the skills required to compete in four heptathlon events — javelin, high jump, 200m and long jump.

The Newmarket-based jockeys, who are also close friends, are used to being competitive in the saddle and this was certainly reflected on the athletics track too, despite James dominating the tough challenge.

“Overall, I think Katarina was pretty impressed with our efforts. She was really nice and it was great fun to do something completely different from what we’re used to,” said James.

“Harry is super competitive, so he was annoyed he couldn’t get one on the board. I was a little sore for the next couple of days after the challenge which surprised me.”

Harry added: “I have the utmost respect for Katarina and other athletes like her — there is so much skill involved in each of the heptathlon events. I think James and I found the fitness side alright, however, the movements are totally different from what we do on a daily basis.”

Credit: Imagecomms

Katarina highlighted that the boys were more prepared than they realised.

“This was something that I think was new and different for them,” she said. “James and Harry train really hard to ride racehorses. But I think they had plenty of laughs doing a different type of training.

“The focus jockeys put on their core training is amazing and there are many similarities in how we all train in the gym,” she added. “The guys were good sports, they picked up the heptathlon challenge events quickly and definitely showed their competitive sides too.”

So should James and Harry consider changing sports anytime soon?

“Their technique could still do with some work, but I could never ride a racehorse like they do,” she said. “I think they have more of a chance of becoming multi-event athletes than I do of becoming a jockey!”

In this week’s Horse & Hound (12 July), don’t miss our ‘Rider fitness’ special including what top riders eat, fitness for across the disciplines and more.

Plus, read our interview with Royal Ascot-winning trainer Eve Johnson Houghton and in this week’s ‘Vet clinic’ we take a look at bacterial meningitis in horses. We also have reports from eventing action at Barbury, racing from Sandown Park and much more.