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AP McCoy: Victoria's first win is great for the sport

By Frank Brownlow

Ulster great AP McCoy hailed double Olympic cycling champion Victoria Pendleton's first victory - by a whopping 29 lengths on board Pacha Du Polder at Wincanton - as "great for the sport".

McCoy - who retired last April at the age of 40 after 20 successive champion jockey titles and 4,358 winners - has been involved in helping Pendleton make the switch from cycling, giving her lessons at trainer Jonjo O'Neill's yard.

It was a vital moment in the 35-year-old's journey towards contesting the St James's Place Foxhunter Chase at the Cheltenham Festival on March 18, particularly after a fall last time out. Pacha Du Polder has been cut to 14-1 for the big race.

And it seemed particularly apt that victory came on the very day the World Cycling Championships - at which Pendleton has won nine gold medals - started in London.

McCoy said it was a "great achievement in such a short time - she should be very proud".

He added: "Technically she is very good because she keeps going forward and it is all about momentum. But to be good at anything you have to enjoy it. My advice is look forward to the Cheltenham Festival. I wish I was going!"

Pendleton was delighted to finally get a win after beginning her Festival bid - backed by bookie Betfair - less than a year ago.

"It's fantastic. I really wanted to get around on the horse and Pacha Du Polder is such a lovely horse, it's an honour to ride such a lovely animal," she said.

"It was very frustrating last time but this sport has lots of thrills and spills and days like last time are just racing. I feel very honoured to do this."

There were a few hundred hardy punters at Wincanton yesterday - 60,000 will pack Cheltenham when the Festival comes under starter's orders on March 15.

On her chances of riding at the Festival, Pendleton said: "I'll see what the experts say and go with it. But I'll be riding in points this weekend and I'm not going anywhere whatever happens."

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