Pendleton gets go-ahead to ride at Cheltenham Festival

Victoria Pendleton.
Victoria Pendleton.
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Victoria Pendleton has been given the go-ahead to ride at the Cheltenham Festival.

The dual Olympic cycling champion will partner Pacha Du Polder in the St James’s Place Foxhunter Chase on Friday week.

Pacha Du Polder’s trainer Paul Nicholls and a team of experts made the decision to allow the 35-year-old the chance to fulfil her dream of appearing at next week’s Festival. She said: “We have always had the extremely ambitious target of riding competitively in the Foxhunter as our goal, so to be announcing that I have achieved this goal is a truly amazing feeling.”

Pendleton focused her sights on horse racing as part of a ‘switching saddles’ campaign which was announced last March and has been backed by bookmakers Betfair.

The road to Cheltenham has not been smooth for Pendleton but she gained her first win as a jockey on the Andy Stewart-owned Pacha Du Polder at Wincanton last week.

She has been tutored daily by Alan and Lawney Hill, leading figures on the point-to-point racing scene, as well as champion trainer Nicholls and leading equestrian coach Yogi Breisner.

Sir Anthony McCoy has also lent his weight behind the project, though retired seven-times former champion jumps jockey John Francome said Pendleton was “an accident waiting to happen” on a racecourse after she was unseated at Fakenham last month. But Pendleton said: “It is not a decision I have taken lightly – I feel capable of being part of that race.”

Pendleton also says she would compare completing the course at Cheltenham to her golden glory days in the Olympics.

“This has been no walk in the park,” she said. “There’ll be a phenomenal crowd at Cheltenham and I am so excited. Getting round would be incredible. If I get round on the horse and complete the course I’ll feel like that’s a gold medal.”

Churchill, winning the Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh in May underRyan Moore. PIC: PA Wire

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