‘I was a bit rusty to start with’: top National Hunt jockey wins showjumping class at Royal International

  • Leading National Hunt jockey Harry Skelton has made a winning return to his showjumping roots, taking top spot in Thursday’s 1.25m at the Longines Royal International Horse Show.

    Riding the experienced 13-year-old gelding Charming Fellow Z, Harry rocketed home to win in Hickstead’s ring four.

    “He’s a good old horse really, one of Dad and Laura’s, who had a bit of time out with injury,” said Harry, who rode the gelding in the Markel Champions’ Challenge in aid of the Injured Jockeys Fund at Olympia in 2018, when the bridle broke and Harry’s father Nick Skelton performed a quick fix with cable-tie.

    “He’s a good fun horse – I’m very competitive though, we’re not here to take part! I’ll always go in and have a go and sometimes it doesn’t quite go to plan – Dad was laughing watching some of my rounds I’d say – but it’s in our blood, we get in there and try to win.

    “We won a rug and a good rosette, so that was great.”

    Royal International: ‘It’s great to be back’

    Harry continued: “It’s great to be back here at Hickstead, we always come down here and enjoy it. I spent a lot of time here as a kid – we grew up here really and the Bunns have always been very welcoming to all of us. This ring is one of the best in the world.”

    Harry’s last appearance in the International Arena at Hickstead ended rather unceremoniously when he ended up “in the middle the Hickstead planks” on the tremendous 12.2hh pony Fontmell Rasputin, owned by John and Clare Whitaker.

    “I sent Harry on his path to success – he never gives me any racing tips though!” said John.

    Harry has forged a stellar career as a jump jockey, being crowned champion in 2021, but returned to the showjumping ring last year – his first time in nearly 20 years – last summer, during National Hunt racing’s quiet season.

    “We’ve not had as many racehorses in through the summer so we’ve had a bit of time to do this,” said Harry, whose wife and fellow jockey Bridget Skelton has also been back in the jumping ring. “I felt like I had a lot more to learn coming back to showjumping, but I did it a lot as a kid so it was all there, I was just a bit rusty to start with!”

    The couple have been producing some young showjumpers and Harry was also competing the four-year-old Chamiousse RBF Z at the Royal International, a youngster who Nick Skelton sourced and has been with Harry for just 12 weeks.

    “Dad saw him and liked what he saw. This is only his fourth show, but he’s very good,” said Harry. “I’ll just try to bring him along and produce him a bit. There’s no rush with him, we’ll just take our time and hopefully he goes on to do something good.

    “Competing in showjumping is just something outside racing for us to do – we do seem to be gathering showjumpers though so I don’t know where it will end up! But we’re really just doing it for fun.”

    Harry rides primarily for brother Dan Skelton, who trains 150 racehorses from their Warwickshire stables and the preparations are starting to be made for the new season gearing up again.

    “I’ll be back to the day job tomorrow!” said Harry.

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