The jump jockeys gained their revenge after last year’s defeat to the Flat boys in Friday night’s thrilling — and fiercely competitive — Markel Champions Challenge over the coloured obstacles at Olympia.
Captained by 20-time champion AP McCoy and trained by H&H columnist Graham Fletcher, the five-man team of legendary former National Hunt jockeys produced the winning performance over Frankie Dettori’s squad, coached by reigning Olympic champion Nick Skelton.
“It’s nice to beat Dettori!” said AP, who lined up alongside former champions Peter Scudamore, Richard Dunwoody, John Francome and Charlie Swan, who boast an astounding 47 championship titles between them.
“The first year we did it [the Markel Challenge], the jump jockeys won, then we were a bit disappointed last year when we had a team of current jump jockeys and the Flat jockeys won — so I sacked them all,” said AP with a grin. “It was time to bring in a slightly older A-team.
“I said we needed a team of champions to put the Flat boys in their place — not knowing that they had lined up a team of champions for this year, too.”
With such huge rivalry between the two teams, who were raising invaluable funds for the Injured Jockeys Fund, the Flat jockeys’ team captain Frankie Dettori announced himself “devastated” to lose.
“You know what AP’s like — he’ll never let me forget this now,” said the Italian. “And now he works for ITV racing, every time I ride a winner he’s going to mention the fact he beat me. But ‘Scu’ [Peter Scudamore, from the winning team] was brilliant he said ‘Imagine how good we were when we were young!’”
Frankie’s team-mates were three-time champion-turned-trainer Richard Hughes, Jamie Spencer, Jim Crowley and three-time champion Ryan Moore.
There was some comeuppance for Frankie, however, as his accomplished round on the brilliant “Barry” — an experienced showjumper borrowed from Tim Gredley — was well over a second quicker than AP’s.
So will the jump jockeys return to the saddle to bid for a winning double next year?
“No — we’re firmly retired again now!” said AP.
Don’t miss the full report from the London International Horse Show at Olympia in next week’s issue of Horse & Hound, out Thursday 21 December.