Olympic heroes to take on Flat race — and football match

  • Double Olympic gold medallist and four-time Badminton winner Mark Todd may tower head and shoulders above the average jockey but the 60-year-old heads to the home of National Hunt racing, Cheltenham Racecourse, tomorrow (Thursday, 20 April) to ride in the Pertemps Champions Willberry Charity Race.

    This contest on the Flat has attracted a world class field of riders from across the equestrian disciplines including his fellow event riders Tina Cook and Ben Hobday, racing presenter Alice Fox-Pitt and racing owner, breeder and investor Sheikh Fahad Al Thani, as well as seven members of the public who were selected to ride — Madeleine Bunbury, Ali Dane, Abigail Dean, Scott Lowther, Catherine Mills, Ben Moore and Jasean Spraggett.

    All have been fundraising ahead of the race for The Bob Champion Cancer Trust and Hannah Francis’s Willberry Wonder Pony charity with an overall target of £100,000. Mark’s fundraising page can be found here.

    “We are absolutely delighted to have Sir Mark on board for the Pertemps Champions Willberry Charity Race and to help us raise money for our two charities,” said Bob Champion. “Sir Mark is a legend in equestrian sport and it is very fitting that he therefore rides in a race at Cheltenham, one of the world’s greatest equine amphitheatres.”

    The tapes go up for the start of the race at 6.15pm on day two of Cheltenham’s April Meeting and racegoers can see equine superstars Valegro, Sprinter Sacre, Big Star and Chilli Morning parading in the paddock beforehand.

    After racing tonight (Wednesday 19 April) a host of sporting legends takes to the football pitch in Cheltenham to raise money for the Injured Jockeys Fund.

    The jockey-filled squad of AP McCoy’s XI will take on the footballing pros of the Cheltenham Legends at 7.30pm and a half-time penalty shoot-out is sure to have the crowds cheering as double Olympic gold medallist Nick Skelton — who was originally due to take part in the charity race  — will show off his fanciest footwork alongside the likes of Carl Llewellyn, John Francome, Peter Scudamore and Paul Nicholls.

    So has Nick been spending his retirement perfecting his ball skills in the garden?

    “Have I heck!” he told H&H. “But it’s for a great cause, the Injured Jockeys Fund, so of course I said yes.”

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