The “Flat Boys” team, captained by Frankie Dettori, triumphed over Richard Johnson’s band of jump jockeys to win the Markel champions challenge — in aid of the Horse & Hound’s charity of the year, the Injured Jockeys Fund — by a whopping 45.51 sec at Olympia, The London International Horse Show earlier today.
Trained by Scott Brash, Frankie’s team of Adam Kirby, Jamie Spencer, Jim Crowley and Bridget Andrews were clear winners over the Nick Skelton-backed side of Victoria Pendleton, Tom Scudamore, Sam Twiston-Davies and Harry Skelton.
“I had a very good team and I didn’t just come here to take part. I wanted to win,” said Frankie. “I think we’ll be able to dine out on this one for many days.”
AP McCoy, watching in the ring, had backed the jump jockeys as natural favourites to win the eight-fence “rescue relay”, but admitted “they’ve never done anything as complicated as this in their lives”.
“If they don’t get lost, they should have the advantage,” he said.
Adam Kirby, first out for the Flat Boys, happily hunted round to add just 3sec for a rail at the third fence. While Jamie Spencer saw a stride no-one else could see at fence six and demolished it, he made it safely through the finish with just one other down to add to the tally.
Jim Crowley made some time up on the clock with a good turn back to the fifth, but also added a 6sec penalty, while Bridget Andrews looked at home throughout a tidy round but had 9sec to add.
Last out for his team, Frankie led them in exemplary style — although the less sporting may have termed it “cheating” — when he produced a clear on a scopey bay showjumper he had borrowed from neighbour Tim Gredley.
“I don’t know his full name, but we call him Barry. He looked after me great,” Frankie said. “It’s very hard to find the balance but I went as fast as I could without knocking stuff over — I had a good horse.”
Victoria Pendleton, first to go for the jump jockeys on a dependable grey, was certainly not rivaling her gold medal-winning cycling times, but did her trainer Nick proud as she produced the only other clear of the competition.
Richard Johnson, meanwhile, was seeing some steeplechasing strides and kept Nick on his toes as a brake failure saw him throw down the whip to make the handover. Once the baton was retrieved and he was able to get going, Tom Scudamore set off at speed only to have a run out at a red vertical. He successfully negotiated it at the second attempt — a feat which was unrelated to Nick standing in the gap next to the wing waving his arms.
Not learning from his team mate’s mistake, Sam Twiston-Davies followed suit and ducked out at the same fence, so it was left to Harry Skelton to redeem the side. He proved himself a chip off the block as he whizzed round the inside routes to just add 3sec at the penultimate fence.
“I actually thought I was a good jockey, but watching them go round no wonder I beat them!” AP ruefully observed.
The experience over the coloured poles further cemented Victoria’s conversion from two wheels to four legs.
“It’s something that makes me very happy — I almost feel sick sometimes, I love it so much,” she said. “I couldn’t have anticipated how much I love it, I think horses will be a part of my life forever.”