Victoria Pendleton given Cheltenham Festival green light

Published: Monday 7th March 2016 by The News Editor

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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 focussed 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, with several hiccups along the way, 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 her emergence in the saddle has been criticised in some racing quarters.

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.

“The whole journey has been a remarkable experience and I have a lot of lasting memories from the last 12 months.

“I would also like to add that I’m delighted that the Stewart family has kindly made Pacha Du Polder available for Cheltenham.

“It’s great that an owner of Andy’s stature is putting his faith in me to ride one of his horses in such a significant race.”

Published: Monday 7th March 2016 by The News Editor

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