Ambitious Pendleton may put her Cheltenham plans on hold

Fakenham Races, Victoria Pendleton taking part in the Betfair Switching Saddles Grassroots Fox Hunters Chase at 4.10 
Wearing Red/White/Black ANL-160220-091933009

Fakenham Races, Victoria Pendleton taking part in the Betfair Switching Saddles Grassroots Fox Hunters Chase at 4.10 Wearing Red/White/Black ANL-160220-091933009

Olympic cyclist-turned-jockey Victoria Pendleton may put her burning ambition of riding at the Cheltenham Festival on hold for another year.

Pendleton’s Cheltenham fate is likely to be decided in the next week or so by eight-times champion trainer Paul Nicholls and her other mentors.

Her bid to ride at this year’s festival in just over a fortnight’s time suffered a cruel blow at Fakenham on Friday when she was unseated on Pacha Du Polder.

It was the 35-year-old’s first ride over regulation fences.

Pendleton said: “Ultimately there are a group of experts behind me and I will trust their judgment 100 per cent, if I’m not ready, I’m not ready.”

The Mildenhall Cycling Club life member followed up her Fakenham setback with a last-place finish in a point-to-point race meeting at Higham on Sunday.

Pendleton’s mount had been made the 8-13 favourite for the Betfair Switching Saddles Grassroots Fox Hunters’ Chase in Norfolk and gave the gelding time to find his feet.

The two-times Olympic champion initially dropped him out at the rear of the six-runner field. The horse gradually warmed to his task and was moving closer to the leaders when he was slightly impeded by Baltic Blue at the seventh fence.

Pendleton and Baltic Blue’s rider Carey Williamson crashed to the ground, but both riders were soon on their feet. The race was won by Vasco Du Mee.

After the race, a disappointed Pendleton said: “I was really looking forward to the race and another opportunity to ride such a fabulous horse.

“Pacha Du Polder is so excellent and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every fence we’ve schooled over.

“I’m very disappointed I didn’t given him a fair shot. He was an odds-on favourite and it was a disappointing job from me, I think.

“I think the horse next to me (Baltic Blue) propped in and as we both came over together he sort of knocked me to one side.”

Pendleton refused to be put off by her unseating.

“More than anything it’s a bruised ego but it won’t put me off,” said Pendleton.

Pendleton 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 at the Cheltenham Festival.

Nicholls had been expected to reunite her with the horse in another hunter chase, at Wincanton on March 2, and the nine-year-old still remains entered in the Foxhunter Chase at Cheltenham, on March 18.