Olympic cycling gold medallist turned amateur jockey Victoria Pendleton has joined the ranks of hundred of thousands of horse enthusiasts in the UK by becoming the proud owner of her first horse.
Victoria is now responsible for the eight-year-old chestnut mare, According To Sarah (pictured top), who was bought by Betfair to help her achieve her well-documented challenge of learning to ride so she could contest the Foxhunter Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
Betfair officially handed over ownership of the mare in a presentation that took place on Easter Saturday (26 March) at the Kimblewick Hunt point-to-point held at Kimble, Bucks.
Victoria had ridden the mare in the hunt members, subscribers and farmers race in her first appearance since finishing fifth at Cheltenham. The pair had disputed the lead for much of the race before dropping out of contention and pulling up two fences from home.
“She ran really well but she prefers good ground and after all the rain we’ve had it has softened up so she didn’t really like the going,” Victoria told H&H after the race.
“I feel so privileged to have been given the opportunity to ride such great horses and am thankful to everybody who has supported me. I am incredibly excited to become a horse owner myself for the first time,” enthused Pendleton, who is now taking a two week holiday to visit family in America.
“When I get back I hope to continue to ride in more point-to-points and perhaps some hunter chases,” she said.
Stephen Mault, the head of media, PR and sponsorship at Betfair, who was representing them at the meeting, said: “We wanted to thank Victoria for all her hard work and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to make the presentation.”
Asked what it was like to own a horse, Victoria said: “I expect it will be expensive and as we lost a shoe in that race I suppose that’s my first bill as an owner!”
Victoria will keep the horse in training with Alan Hill at his yard in Aston Rowant where she has been regularly riding out. The former champion point to point trainer and his wife Lawney – who have become mentors to Pendleton – have been instrumental in teaching her the skills required for competitive jump racing.
Hill enjoyed his most successful day ever as a trainer when saddling five winners on the six race card at Kimble. His son Joe was also celebrating by landing his first four-timer, aboard horses all trained by his father, including the winner of the race Victoria took part in where the 11-year-old Divine Folly came home in front.