A Double Olympic champion Victoria Pendleton was agonisingly denied a fairytale victory on her first ride as a fully-fledged amateur jockey at Ripon, yesterday.
Despite being a total novice in the saddle, the dual Olympic gold medal-winning cyclist announced in March she was training to become a jockey, with the long-term aim of competing in the Foxhunter Chase at next year’s Cheltenham Festival.
Pendleton, 34, made her racecourse debut in a charity event at Newbury in early July, when down the field aboard Mighty Mambo, and having since been awarded her ‘Category A’ licence, she headed to North Yorkshire to partner the Lawney Hill-trained Royal Etiquette in the 13-runner Betfair Novice Flat Amateur Riders’ Handicap.
The 14-1 shot was slowly away, coming out of the stalls last of all, but swiftly made up ground down the outside of the field to track the pacesetting Chocolate Diamond.
The pair rounded the home turn well clear of the remainder and when Chocolate Diamond began to falter, Pendleton pushed Royal Etiquette to the front.
The chasing pack closed up in the final furlong, but Royal Etiquette refused to go down without a fight.
However, he was eventually just run out of it by 33-1 chance Jordaura.
Hill said: “I’m over the moon, because the race didn’t go to plan at all.
“They didn’t go a fast gallop so she was up there with them, he went to the front, which we didn’t want him to do until later on in the race, but he really enjoyed it and this is what she is so good at – she switched to plan B on her first ride. Most people can’t do that after 50 rides.
“The first thing she said was ‘sorry I didn’t win’, that’s because she’s a perfectionist, but look at how well we’ve done today. I’ve been saying for a long time now this isn’t just a stunt, it’s a serious challenge.”