Richard captained the jump jockeys’ team who took on some of the best event riders in the world in the JCB Champions’ Challenge – a highly competitive relay race over fences in aid of the Injured Jockeys Fund, which takes place in front of a large, enthusiastic crowd in Barbury’s main arena.
The jockeys’ team, which this year also comprised Tom Scudamore, Sam Twiston-Davies and Wayne Hutchinson, had won for the past two years and their pre-match confidence indicated they thought they had it nailed again this year. While the eventers, captained by 2018 Badminton Horse Trials winner and New Zealand Olympian Jonelle Price, carefully selected their mounts from the horses contesting the final of the inter-hunt relay and planned their tactics, the jocks were spotted enjoying a pint at the bar.
Richard Johnson – who was lucky enough to ride legendary team-chaser Yvonne Goss’s 2018 Golden Button hunt race winner Jaffa – was pitted against dual Olympic gold medallist Sir Mark Todd. “Toddy” took a crafty tight line through the water complex – “It’s not often someone gets up Dickie Johnson’s inner,” quipped commentator Alice Fox-Pitt – and from then on the jockeys were always a stride behind. Eventer Tim Price, who completed the eventing team alongside Lissa Green, punched the air as he crossed the line.
“That bodes well for the World Equestrian Games!” said Sir Mark who, along with Jonelle and Tim Price, is expected to be part of the New Zealand team for the forthcoming world championships in September.
Wayne Hutchinson blamed the jockeys’ defeat on a tack malfunction – his stirrup iron broke, while Sam Twiston-Davies said:
“We need to get here earlier next year – the eventers stole a march on us and nicked most of the best horses!”
“We’ve had a fantastic time. The Injured Jockeys Fun is the best possible cause, and it’s fun to do something completely different to what we do every day. We’re all off to Nico de Boinville’s wedding now, so riding at Market Rasen tomorrow could be a bit of a struggle!”
Richard Johnson said:
“Thank you so much to all the hunt relay members who lent us their horses. It’s in aid of a great cause, and we’ll be back next year to regain our title.”
Tim Leadbeater, a director of JCB and owner of racehorses with Barbury-based trainer Alan King, said:
“We’ve been involved with the Champions’ Challenge since it first started – it’s great fun and there couldn’t be a more worthwhile cause than the Injured Jockeys Fund. This is an annual highlight for us.”
Tomorrow (Sunday, 8 July) is the fourth and final day of St James’s Place Barbury Horse Trials, featuring the jumping phases of the two CIC3* classes, including the Event Rider Masters series. Tickets may be bought on the gate or online up to midnight tonight.
For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.barburyhorsetrials.co.uk.