Victoria Pendleton eyes first Hunter Chase on journey to Cheltenham

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  • Olympic cyclist Victoria Pendleton is to take part in her first Hunter Chase this month, as she moves a step closer to competing in the Cheltenham Foxhunter.

    Victoria has been riding in point-to-points this season and is now aiming at the 3m race at Fakenham on Friday 19 February.

    Victoria, who retired from competitive cycling after London 2012, was set the challenge by Betfair last year to start riding and secure an amateur jockeys licence.

    Having never sat on a horse before, the ultimate aim is for Victoria to take part in the Foxhunter at the Cheltenham.

    Victoria will be riding Pacha Du Polder, a former charge of champion trainer Paul Nicholls, at Fakenham.

    “Should Victoria reach Cheltenham, her and Pacha Du Polder are more than capable of finishing in the first six,” Paul wrote in his Betfair blog.

    “Victoria’s improvement since the challenge began is phenomenal.”

    Victoria was narrowly denied her first point-to-point victory last month (31 January) when she was beaten by a head.

    Victoria and Pacha Du Polder finished second from 12 runners at Milborne St Andrew in Dorset.

    Victoria and the nine-year-old gelding, who is owned by the Stewart Family, took up the running with a circuit to go, but was caught on the line by Queens Bay, ridden by Bryony Frost.

    It’s hard to put into words how exciting the race to the line was. I owe a great deal to Pacha Du Polder, he gave me a great ride and it’s been a pleasure to get the chance to sit on a horse of his ability,” said Victoria at the time.

    She pulled up in her most recent point-to-point outing, at Wadebridge with Working Title at the weekend, but now is aiming for the Hunter Chase.

    “Fakenham is the logical target after their excellent debut together when they failed by inches to land a point-to-point at Milborne St Andrew,” added Paul.

    “It is important for Victoria to gain experience in a Hunter Chase before considering a tilt at the ultimate challenge of riding in the Foxhunter at Cheltenham in March.

    “Pacha Du Polder is a very classy chaser, a brilliant jumper, travels well in his races, has smart form over Aintree’s National fences and showed he stayed three miles at Milborne St Andrew.”

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    “I wanted to be satisfied that Victoria was ready for Hunter Chases and I’d say she passed the examination with flying colours.

    “She sits quietly on a horse, is tidy over a fence and unbelievably determined. She she now looks the part when she comes down to Ditcheat to ride on our gallops.”

    In setting up the “Switching Saddles” challenge, Betfair wanted to provide an “unexpected and entertaining perspective on horseracing, while also profiling the skills, athleticism and courage faced by jockeys every day”.

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