Sunday 25 September 2016

Victoria Pendleton eager to achieve Cheltenham festival ambition

Published 03/03/2016 | 09:08

Paul Nicholls and Victoria Pendleton with the Dick Woodhouse Trophy after winning the Betfair Switching Saddles Hunter Chase at Wincanton Racecourse
Paul Nicholls and Victoria Pendleton with the Dick Woodhouse Trophy after winning the Betfair Switching Saddles Hunter Chase at Wincanton Racecourse

Victoria Pendleton is taking a pragmatic approach to the decision on her Cheltenham Festival participation, admitting "there's always next year" to achieve her ambition.

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Pendleton embarked on the Betfair-backed 'Switching Saddles' challenge just over a year ago, with the ultimate aim of riding in the St James's Place Foxhunter Chase at the Festival later this month.

The dual Olympic champion cyclist suffered a blow when unseated from Pacha Du Polder on her first start under National Hunt Rules at Fakenham just under two weeks ago, but she gained swift compensation when steering that horse to victory at Wincanton on Wednesday.

Pendleton will now await the verdict of the team of experts who have guided her education in the saddle, with Pacha Du Polder's trainer Paul Nicholls, jumping guru Yogi Breisner and Lawney and Alan Hill having the final say on her Festival dream on Monday.

"The emotions are so different as I've gone from a sport where everything is so calculated to one where you probably have 10 per cent of the variables under control and the rest is down to a six-tonne thoroughbred," she told Radio 5 Live.

"I was just really focussing on my own performance and getting round safe and sound as I was so disappointed after Fakenham. I didn't do the horse or any of my coaches justice.

"Fakenham was just one of those things, but once I'd seen the footage which showed my foot getting kicked out. I just said 'Vic, you're better than that'.

"I was amazed how many photos there were though, it looks like it went on for hours and it happened in the blink of an eye.

"I bought into the challenge under the pretence that I would do everything in my power to try to qualify for the Foxhunter and I know it's a very exclusive and huge event, there was never a point when it was 100 per cent going to happen.

"I thought to myself I'd have to expect highs and lows and after Fakenham there was a lot of negative publicity and I feel I've redeemed myself a bit.

"It's up to the experts to decide if I'm ready and I trust them 100 percent. What will be will be.

"The decision hasn't been made yet, we'll let the dust settle.

"Of course I'd like to go, Cheltenham is an incredible event, I went last year, but there's a lot more riders and that makes it very, very challenging.

"I'll allow the expects to decide. It doesn't mean I won't stop trying, there's always next year."

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