Kiwi event star Andrew Nicholson won’t be tucking into much Christmas pudding this year — for he has to shed two stone by 12 March.
The three-times Burghley winner is one of 12 riders taking part in the 2015 St Patrick’s Derby charity race at the Cheltenham Festival.
The full line-up of riders for the race, run over 1m4f on the Flat, was revealed today (Thursday 4 December).
Andrew, 53, said in another life he would “have loved” to be a jump jockey.
“Riding at the Cheltenham Festival, the home of jump racing, is the closest I’m going to get to this dream.” he added.
“At my age, you need to take the opportunities while they’re there and what better charity to do it for than the Injured Jockeys Fund (IJF), as I have the most enormous respect for jockeys. I’m looking forward to the training for the race, but not to shedding the weight!”
The 12 riders selected are a mix of well-known figures in the racing world and those who’ve always harboured an ambition of riding on Cheltenham’s famous turf.
Coming up against the Olympic rider is: Paul Nicholls’ head lad Clifford Baker, Coral’s Simon Clare, Ladbrokes’ Hayley O’Connor and Racing UK’s Phillip Clark.
Completing the line-up is Lucy Charnock, James Collins, Jonathan Mills, Olive Murphy, Emily Scott, Mike Symons and Thomas Williams.
The two reserves are Rod Trow and Hannah Walker.
The riders had to each raise a minimum £5,000 in sponsorship and provide their own mounts, who must have run at least twice under Rules.
The number of applications was up “significantly” for the charity event, run for the sixth time. Cheltenham’s chosen charity for the 2015 race is The Injured Jockey Fund; the previous five races raised £1.1m for Cancer Research UK.
If Andrew takes the title he won’t be the first eventing winner of the charity race — in 2012 Olympic silver medallist Tina Cook took the spoils, aboard a horse trained by her brother Nick Gifford.
At the time she described it as “a total thrill”.
Read the report from last year’s race
The former European eventing champion turns her hand to race-riding at the Cheltenham Festival
“We are delighted with the line-up for the St Patrick’s Derby and thrilled that so many people wanted to take part,” said Lisa Hancock, chief executive of the Injured Jockeys Fund.
“It will be almost two years to the day that J T McNamara has his tragic accident at The Festival which makes being involved in this charity race particularly poignant.”