Boys v girls, ‘a little dinger of a pony’ and a great cause – jockeys showjump in London

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  • Twenty-time champion jockey AP McCoy was among the male jockeys who beat the girls team – headed by Grand National winner Rachael Blackmore – today in the light-hearted Markel London Horse Show jockeys jumping, run in aid of the Injured Jockeys Fund.

    AP rode a chestnut who showjumps with his daughter Eve.

    “All I got when I came out was ‘That’s cheating, you’re riding your daughter’s horse that wins everything’ – coming from Rachael Blackmore who Henry de Bromhead has put on Honeysuckle, A Plus Tard, champion after champion for the last five years. She’s got some cheek giving out to me for being on the best horse,” he joked.

    “You didn’t get put on many of them in your career, did you?” retorted Rachael, who reckoned the girls’ lack of success was down to their horses being “too big and too slow”.

    AP came back: “That’s what happens when these people get spoiled, riding the best horse all the time, a prime example…”

    Rachael suggested a rematch in an hour’s time: “I’m going to ride his, he’s going to ride mine and we’ll see how we get on.”

    The London Horse Show jockeys jumping was conducted in an atmosphere of great hilarity, with five top male jockeys from both flat and jumps racing, taking on five leading female jockeys.

    Each jumped a course against the clock, with three seconds added for a fence down, and then took on a joker fence, the Markel planks, with the opportunity to remove four seconds from their time if they cleared it, but four seconds added if they knocked it. The four best scores in each team were added up to give the final result.

    The boys team, trained by 2016 Olympic showjumping champion Nick Skelton, and consisting of AP, Nick’s son Harry Skelton, former champion flat jockey Jim Crowley, James Doyle and reigning champion jumps jockey Brian Hughes took the spoils despite the fact girls team trainer Pippa Funnell and her husband William ran forward and raised the height of the joker significantly before Harry approached it. But the other four all cleared it so the boys ran out the winners by more than 35 seconds.

    Jim Crowley, most noted for his recent partnership with Baaeed, put in the fastest time of the night, saying: “What a little dinger of a pony – I wouldn’t top him tonight.”

    The winning male jockeys team for the Markel jockeys jumping in aid of the Injured Jockeys Fund

    AP McCoy, Brian Hughes, Jim Crowley, James Doyle and Harry Skelton in the Markel Jockeys Jumping, in aid of the Injured Jockeys Fund during the London International Horse Show. Credit: Peter Nixon

    In the girls team, Rachael rode alongside Cheltenham Festival-winning jockey Bridget Andrews, Hayley Turner, Saffie Osborne and Joanna Mason.

    Bridget was the only one who cleared the joker – no doubt helped by the fact her mount was the Funnells’ 19-year-old former five-star horse Billy Angelo. She said: “I was pretty spoilt riding him and I was rusty, but he carried me round. I love doing it and it’s for a great charity. I’m just back from injury so it couldn’t be more apt right now.”

    The audience were urged to donate to the Injured Jockeys Fund during the class, by texting IJF to 70800 to give £5.

    “I’ve been president of the Injured Jockeys Fund since John Francome passed it over to me and it’s a great charity,” said AP.

    “Lord Oaksey founded it 50 odd years ago and it costs three and a half million pounds a year to run, which is purely on donations. It looks after everyone from people who’ve been elite jockeys to people who may have had one ride and have got injured doing something else, whether it be in a building site or something. We look after them and care for them, whatever care they need, so it’s a great charity.

    “Rachael has the same Injured Jockeys Fund in Ireland and we’re very grateful that she’s come over because she’s more of a star than any of the rest of us ever have been. So we’re very lucky that she’s come along.”

    Rachael described the Injured Jockeys Fund as a “fantastic safety blanket”.

    “Our sport is a very dangerous sport, so we’re very lucky the Injured Jockeys Fund is there,” she said.

    Pippa Funnell said it had been a privilege to meet Rachael for the first time.

    “She’s done so much for women jockeys and females in sport, it just shows all the little girls here what can be done – if you dream big, you can get there,” she said.

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