Sport Horse Racing

Tuesday 21 February 2017

Pendleton vows to carry on despite shock Fakenham fall

Published 20/02/2016 | 02:30

Former Olympic cycling gold medalist Victoria Pendleton (left) is unseated from hot favourite Pacha Du Polder at the same time as Carey Williamson parts company with Baltic Blue in yesterday's Betfair Switching Saddles 'Grassroots' Fox Hunters' Chase at Fakenham (Nigel French/PA Wire)
Former Olympic cycling gold medalist Victoria Pendleton (left) is unseated from hot favourite Pacha Du Polder at the same time as Carey Williamson parts company with Baltic Blue in yesterday's Betfair Switching Saddles 'Grassroots' Fox Hunters' Chase at Fakenham (Nigel French/PA Wire)

Victoria Pendleton insists she's not giving up on her dream of riding at next month's Cheltenham Festival, despite an ignominious exit on her first ride over regulation fences at Fakenham.

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The dual Olympic champion cyclist announced last March that she was embarking on the Betfair-backed 'Switching Saddles' challenge to make the transition from velodrome to racecourse, with the ultimate aim of riding in the St James's Place Foxhunter Chase at Cheltenham.

After months of intensive training and having had several rides - on the Flat and in point-to-points - the Paul Nicholls-trained Pacha Du Polder was earmarked as Pendleton's intended Festival mount, and the partnership almost got off to a dream start when beaten in a photo-finish in a point-to-point last month.

Pacha Du Polder lined up as the 8/13 favourite in the hunters' chase, but he only made it as far as the seventh fence before his jockey was unseated.

"I hope Cheltenham is still the plan, but we are up against the clock as there are not many races left between now and Cheltenham," Pendleton said afterwards.

"Hopefully I'll get another opportunity to sit on him, and get as many rides in as possible between now and then.

"It's up to the team of experts to decide whether I'm ready for Cheltenham I hope I am.

"I appreciate this is what happens, and it was going to happen sooner or later. More than anything it's a bruised ego, but it won't put me off.

"I absolutely love riding horses and I'd love to be a work-rider until the end of my days, maybe get a couple of horses myself and do some pointing.

Impeded

"You have to expect a setback at some point and this was one of those days, unfortunately."

Pacha Du Polder gradually warmed to his task and was moving closer to the leaders when he was slightly impeded by Baltic Blue with a circuit still to run.

Pendleton and Baltic Blue's rider Carey Williamson crashed to the ground, but both jockeys were soon on their feet. The race was won by 8/1 shot Vasco Du Mee.

Pendleton added: "It was a freak occurrence. The horse in front (Baltic Blue) knocked my foot out of the stirrups.

"Physically I'm fine and it's not put me off. Watching the video back there was nothing I could have done to avoid it."

Pendleton plans to be back riding in point-to-points tomorrow at either Highham or Badbury Rings.

At Sandown, meanwhile, the success of the Fergal O'Brien-trained Jennys Surprise in the Royal Artillery Gold Cup was tinged with emotion.

O'Brien's eight-year-old mare was ridden by Brodie Hampson, whose father, Mark, has been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Jennys Surprise ran in Hampson's colours for the day and won the feature contest for military riders by a length and a half as the 5/4 favourite.

O'Brien explained: "It has to be one of the most emotional winners I've ever been involved with, it was very special.

"We only played a small part in it. The Yes No Wait Sorries Partnership, who own the horse, leant him for the day, but it's great to be a part of it.

"It wasn't just the story off the track that was great, the race itself was. The mare didn't look like winning, really, but Brodie kept pushing away and it was a dramatic win."

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