Cheltenham Festival winner takes on World Cup rugby player in fitness head-to-head

A jockey and a rugby player have gone head to head in a series of fitness challenges.

Two-time Grade 1-winning jockey Lizzie Kelly, 25, took on Harlequins Ladies’ captain and Rugby World Cup winner Rachael Burford, 32, in the latest episode of the Great British Racing “Jockey VS” series which aims to showcase the fitness of racing athletes against other sporting stars.

The athletes can be seen taking part in a plank challenge, a vertical jump, a 30-second wattbike test, which measures the power output in watts, and a session on a equiciser, a mechanical horse.

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A spokesman for Great British Racing said both athletes were expected to perform well in the plank.

‘Kelly and Burford were expected to perform well in this exercise as both require a huge amount of core strength to be successful in their respective sports. The Harlequins Ladies centre outlasted the Grade 1-winning jockey after an impressive three-minute hold from both athletes to take a 1-0 lead,” he said.

“Turning the tables on Burford, Kelly then produced a giant leap in her final effort of three in the vertical jump. The distance between Kelly’s standing height and her jump was measured as 0.49cm, leapfrogging Burford’s effort of 0.47cm and drawing her level in the contest at 1-1.”

Lizzie beat Rachael on the wattbike test, achieving 4.70W/kg against Rachael’s 4.47 W/kg. Lizzie completed two minutes on equiciser at a heart rate of 120bpm but because of her experience as a jockey Rachael’s one minute on the equiciser at a heart rate of 120bpm was seen as the winner, bringing the overall contest to a draw.

Lizzie, who won the handicap chase on Coo Star Sivola at the Cheltenham Festival last year, said: “I hope I showed to people the fitness and strength that jockeys have to have in order to compete on a daily basis. In sports like rugby, professionals have a lot more coaching and training than jockeys do, so I imagined before that Rachael was likely to beat me. It was nice to see that I could hold my own against someone who has represented her country more than 80 times in a sport like rugby.”

Rachael who is part of the England women’s Six Nations squad, said: “I thoroughly enjoyed pitting myself against Lizzie in this set of fitness challenges. As an elite athlete, I relish competition, and to be able to go against a top-class competitor from a different sport was extremely exciting. Lizzie showed the kind of shape you have to be in to be a top jockey and she certainly opened my eyes to the challenges that her training programme provides – of course I’m talking about the equiciser. I wish her the best of luck for the rest of the season.”

Yariv Kam, fitness coach at the British Racing School, said the challenge demonstrates the qualities and level of “peak fitness” jockeys need to compete.

“In terms of the challenges themselves, for Lizzie to win the vertical jump and the wattbike emphasises that jockeys really do need strong legs, it is so important on the horse for jockeys to keep their legs working in order to hold a streamlined position with their core and upper body,” he said.

“Finally, what an effort to see Rachael stay on the equiciser for a minute at that sort of level. We find here at the British Racing School that people really struggle on the equiciser on their first time of giving it a go, so that was really impressive.

“Congratulations to both Lizzie and Rachael on their amazing performance.”