Scarcely one year after sitting on a horse for the first time, Olympic cycling gold medalist Victoria Pendleton raced over fences in the highly competitive Foxhunter Chase at the Cheltenham Festival (UK) on March 18, 2016. She rode Pacha Du Polder to a respectable fifth place finish, despite the misgivings of some of the experienced jockeys.
At Cheltenham, Pendleton, who has been riding in point-to-points, went up against some of the best amateur jockeys in Britain and Ireland with fewer than twenty rides over jumps under her belt.
The Foxhunter Chase for amateur riders follows the running of the Cheltenham Gold Cup over the same three-mile, two-and-a-half furlong distance. Pendleton received the go-ahead to ride after winning her first race at Wincanton Racecourse on Pacha Du Polder the week before. The win helped erase doubts about her readiness for Cheltenham that arose after she was unseated in a race just two weeks earlier. Prior to her winning start at Wincanton, thirty-five-year-old Pendleton had a total of eighteen starts in point-to-points and four falls.
Pendleton said achieving her goal of riding at the meeting had required her to take her athletic performance “to a new level.” The decision to let her ride was a gamble and one about which her team felt increasingly nervous as the Foxhunters Chase approached. Nevertheless, she produced a stunning ride according to reports. She stayed toward the back of the field early on, jumping safely before easing her way forward through the field.
"It's such a rush, such a thrill, riding a Thoroughbred over jumps," said Pendleton.
Posted March 19, 2016