When two time Olympic cycling gold medallist Victoria Pendleton announced last March that she would be making the switch from the veledrome to the race course, many eyebrows were raised. However, now almost a year on, and with numerous successful rides under her belt, Pendleton is finally set to embark on her first professional run over regulation fences. With her ultimate goal of a ride at the Cheltenham Festival just a matter of weeks away, the former cyclist is closing in on her first victory on horseback as she competes at Fakenham on Friday afternoon.
After coming out unscathed from a recent fall at Barbury Castle, having been unseated with five fences to go at the end of the race, Pendleton will be looking to prove her doubters wrong as she hopes to claim a first professional victory in the coming weeks. With a potential ride at the Cheltenham Festival just around the corner, a race in which the quality and amount of riders will be significantly more than she has come up against to date, Pendleton will be looking to gain valuable experience in her meetings until then.
Pendleton will be riding Paul Nicholls trained, Pacha Du Polder at the Norfolk venue on Friday and the horse has also been pencilled in as her ride for the Cheltenham Festival in March. Nicholls, a champion jumps trainer, has assured any pessimists that the horse will have no problem with the Fakenham track, as well as at the gruelling Cheltenham Festival run. The question on many people’s lips however, will be does he have the legs to finish though? Coral Interactive offer a complete Cheltenham guide for those of you who like a horse racing bet.
Despite her competitiveness and passion to succeed in her new sport, Pendleton is not placing all her eggs in one basket and says she has other options if horse racing is not as fruitful as she had hoped.
“I’ve got a massive list of sports I’d like to learn – actually I’d really like to learn how to box, that is on my list.” States Pendleton, who only received her amateur riding license in August of last year.
When asked about her biggest challenge when adjusting from cycling to horse racing, Pendleton quipped ‘‘Having No Breaks, probably.’’ One of the biggest obsticales for her to overcome in her next race however will be keeping her concentration. With four jockeys having been banned in recent years for either riding a finish a circuit too soon or, in other cases, heading out for one circuit too many. Pendleton will however be no stranger to pressure and expectation, having lit up the veledrome in front of packed houses on numerous occasions. It remains to be seen however, if after such little time, she can compete against such experienced riders.