Retired star showjumper continues winning ways with top jump jockey

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  • William Funnell’s Olympia victor Billy Angelo was back in the winner’s enclosure this week with Cheltenham Festival-winning jockey Bridget Skelton.

    The 17-year-old multiple CSI5* winner has stepped back from his top-level international career to enjoy his veteran years continuing to do what he loves best.

    The pair won the 1.10m open and were second in the 1.20m at Keysoe on Wednesday (15 July).

    “He is the dream and the kindest, loveliest, happiest horse,” Bridget (née Andrews) told H&H, adding she feels “very lucky” to have him.

    “I hack him out at home, take the dogs for walks, he goes up the gallops with the racehorses — he is living the life of luxury and very much enjoying it! I’m making sure he is very spoilt.”

    Professional jump jockey Bridget, who scored her first Cheltenham Festival win in 2018 aboard the 33-1 shot Mohaayed in the Randox Health County Hurdle, said she had been looking for something to have fun on over the summer.

    “Race-riding over the summer is much quieter for me than it is in winter, so I said to Harry [Skelton, my husband], that I might quite like to have a pleasure horse to have fun on and maybe look to doing a bit of showjumping,” said Bridget. “I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted, I was thinking maybe about retraining a retired racehorse or something.

    “Harry mentioned it to his dad [Nick Skelton] and the next thing I knew Nick said ‘we’ve found you a horse!’.”

    Bridget added she thought they were joking when she found out they were talking about Billy Angelo.

    Billy Angelo enjoying a hack with his canine friends.

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    The Dutch warmblood scored wins at Hickstead, Olympia and Horse of the Year Show, as well as numerous top placings at Bolesworth, Liverpool, London GCT and further afield in his nine years with William on the international circuit.

    “He had retired from the top level and was having a quieter time hacking with William and he and the horse’s owner, Julie Slade, kindly said he could come and live with me,” she said.

    “He just has this lovely expression on his face and it has just been the absolute dream to have him. It’s a nice relaxation for me away from racing at a bit of a quieter time — I used to do a bit of jumping in the past, so it is a nice chance to learn and to come back to that.”

    Bridget said Billy Angelo will very much set the pace of what he wants to do and she is looking forward to enjoying the ride “without putting any pressure on him”.

    The day’s success was capped with an across card double for the Andrews family. Bridget’s sister seven-time point-to-point champion jockey Gina Ellis — also a Cheltenham Festival winner — claimed the 1.30m aboard Fireball X on the combination’s first outing this season.

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