Sports collide as jockey and footballer do battle in gym
AS a professional sportsman you have to constantly strive to be at the peak of your game, ensuring you are in the best physical and mental shape possible.
Sticking to the correct diet, living the best possible lifestyle and both playing and training hard can give you the edge in your respective discipline.
But what happens when you put two of the region's biggest names up against each other to determine just which sport gives you more of that edge?
Grand National-winning jockey Daryl Jacob today takes to the saddle at Wincanton Racecourse for the Under Starters Orders meeting, announcing the return of jump racing in South Somerset for the 2013-14 season.
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It is also a welcome return to his home course for the 2012 Grand National winner based with Paul Nicholls at Ditcheat, after a summer spent battling a shoulder injury.
His rehabilitation also involved a battle of a different nature - in the gym with Yeovil Town attacker Sam Foley.
Avid racing fan and Wembley hero Foley pitted his wits against Jacob in four fitness tests devised by staff at Wincanton Sports Centre.
With excuses of lingering ailments and 90 minutes the night before in the Somerset Premier Cup behind them, the duo ran 1.5 miles in as quick a time as possible, performed as many sit-ups as they could manage in 60 seconds and executed a ski squat before ending the session with a penalty shoot-out.
Lighthearted smiles amid claims that he would be happy to win just one round soon left Jacob's face as the pair's competitive spirit took over on the treadmill. Jacob edged home by a nose despite Foley's earlier call for his running trainers.
The sit-ups went to the form book, the footballer dominating with 59 in a minute compared to his competitor's 45 as Foley's strong core required to succeed in the Football League shone.
But it was not long before Jacob edged ahead again, despite his lack of recent regular race action leaving him at a potential disadvantage.
The static ski squat, where the individual leans with their back against a wall and legs bent at a 90-degree angle, is an excellent indicator of quadracep strength.
And in a profession where your control of a powerful beast such as a horse relies on such strength, there was only likely to be one winner.
As Foley threw in the towel after an admirable one minute and nine seconds, Jacob remained calmness personified, almost in a meditative state on the other side of the gym.
With a ball at his feet, the former Newport County and Cheltenham Town man was back in his element.
The hallowed turf of Huish Park, it may not have been. But 12 yards away from a five-a-side goal with pride at stake, the pressure was very much still on.
The left-footed Jacob struck the target in all but one of his four spot kicks, although was unable to find the net. The Wincanton SC stand-in keeper was in inspired form by blocking three, the goalframe saving him on the other occasion.
Foley kept his cool and rode an initial miss to stroke home the two kicks needed to win the shootout and share honours from the challenge.
On a lighthearted afternoon when both sportsmen gave their all a draw was a fair result, with both ensuring they were not on the receiving end of an upset by triumphing in the areas they expected to impress in.
Jacob said: "I do a lot of running here to keep fit, so, realistically, if I ever thought I had a chance against Sam that was it. I wanted to go longer, I usually run for 45 minutes.
"I'll be racing now almost every day with three or four rides a day across two weeks, so I will be back to my peak soon. I usually spend two-and-a-half hours every other day in the gym but every time riding out is different. You can't beat riding or match practice for your fitness."
Foley added: "I would've been disappointed if I hadn't been stronger with the sit-ups. You can't replace games, though. You can train as much as you can, but a competitive game is where you get that sharpness."
Wincanton SC manager Mark Rickwood said: "These professional sportsmen are so dedicated and focused. We see Daryl pushing himself to the limit on the treadmill and bikes and it's quite something to see.
"His desire for success drives him to achieve the best for himself, his horse, his trainer and the owners. You know that if he's riding for you you'll get 100 per cent.
"Of course following his injury and major surgery we have seen him work extra hard. On top of all this he's always got time to chat to all the staff at the centre and when asked for a few pointers on the horses he invariably says some horses name that's unpronounceable, because its French, or it's called Lucky."
SEE Page 95 for the latest horse racing news ahead of today's opening meeting at Wincanton.