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Pendleton is switching saddles in Cheltenham Festival quest

SWITCHING SADDLES: Retired cyclist Victoria Pendleton is attempting to turn her love of horses into a career
SWITCHING SADDLES: Retired cyclist Victoria Pendleton is attempting to turn her love of horses into a career

Cycling golden girl Victoria Pendleton has decided to swap pedal power for horse power as she dreams of racing at the Cheltenham Festival next year.

Pendleton, who first took up riding with Mildenhall Cycling Club and still remains a gold member, will be remembered as one of the greatest female cyclists to grace the track after amassing a total of 19 medals and six world records, including a gold and silver at the London 2012 Olympic Games in her swansong of an illustrious career.

However, the 34-year-old has now decided to take on an ambitious challenge and switched saddles with the aim of becoming a qualified amateur jockey who will then target a ride in the Foxhunters Chase at the prestigious festival. I’ve been looking for a new and exciting challenge,” said Pendleton, speaking to betting company Betfair’s website, who are sponsoring the challenge.

“When Betfair approached me about the opportunity to train to become a licensed amateur jockey, it captured my imagination.

“I’m motivated by the scale of the challenge and the opportunity to combine my love of horses with learning a new skill under the guidance of the team of horse-racing experts that Betfair has put in place for me.

“I will be working closely with Yogi Breisner, Chris King and Paul Nicholls to help train and advise me over the next 12 months.

“My team and I have identified the ambitious target of riding competitively in the Foxhunters Chase at Cheltenham Festival next year, but the initial focus will be on getting me to a level whereby I am granted an amateur jockey licence, which is a significant challenge in itself given that I had never even sat on a horse until a week ago.”

Pendleton has already started intensive tuition under the guidance of Breisner, performance manager, eventing, for Team GB and will receive further training from eight-time Champion National Hunt trainer Nicholls, with the full use of his Somerset-based Manor Farm facilities.

“Victoria is a hugely talented, ambitious and gutsy individual, and these traits will stand her in the best stead possible for achieving this ambitious goal,” said Breisner.

“Having worked with her for a week, the progress she has already made in such a small amount of time is quite frankly remarkable.”

Nicholls has also backed the former Olympian to succeed, saying: “Victoria is an outstanding athlete with a real drive and determination, so while this is an incredibly difficult challenge, these attributes are exactly what you need to become a jockey.”

n Watch Pendleton talk about her challenge at www.buryfreepress.co.uk


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