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Pendleton rules out crack at Aintree after completing Cheltenham bow

AINTREE NO-GO: Despite impressing at the recent Cheltenham Festival, Victoria Pendleton says that she will not race at the upcoming Grand National meeting.
AINTREE NO-GO: Despite impressing at the recent Cheltenham Festival, Victoria Pendleton says that she will not race at the upcoming Grand National meeting.

Olympian Victoria Pendleton says she has no immediate plans to take on the big fences at Aintree after completing her remarkable Switching Saddles quest at Cheltenham.

Pendleton came home fifth in the St James’s Place Foxhunter Chase at Prestbury Park last Friday - just one year after swapping the saddle of cycling to that of horseracing.

But a quick return to fences at the forthcoming Grand National meeting is not on the cards for the double Olympic cycling champion.

The Mildenhall Cycling Club life member said: “I’ve got no ambitions to go on to Aintree – I think that would be a step too far.

“I’m more likely to sprout wings and fly rather than ride there. I think, with my level of experience, it would take a lot more seasons before I could consider that.

“We’ll have to take it one step at a time. I’ve really enjoyed the point-to-pointing.

“Hopefully I can become a more competent horsewoman and see what’s next. Give me any sport and I’ll give it a try though.”

If the nerves were jangling, it did not show come the big day at Cheltenham.

Pendleton gave Pacha Du Polder a superbly patient ride before staying on strongly to finish fifth in a race won by On The Fringe.

“The first couple of fences came really quickly and, as you can probably tell by watching, I wasn’t the most tidy.

“Then we settled into a rhythm and I just kind of tried to relax into it. He jumped so beautifully, even with very little space, he really gave me a great opportunity and was very relaxed.

“I just tried to steady him up and stay on the inner as much as I could. I was really trying not to expend too much energy because I knew the trip was going to be the biggest challenge of the day.

“Now, I’m just kicking myself because if I didn’t have my whip stuck down the breast girth, I may have got fourth.

Pendleton added: “Nobody knew if this was possible – myself included. The team around me set off with a challenge and we were going to give it our best shot, take it one step at a time and we didn’t know.

“Today, we could have been sat here and I could have fallen off, fallen out of the side door and we would have been in a very different situation. I’m just glad we made it.”

n John Ferguson was unable to end his training career with a winner at Cheltenham.

Ferguson, who trains from Bloomfields Farm in Cowlinge, just outside Newmarket, saddled High Bridge in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper, but the horse could only finish sixth.


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