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Pendleton: Fall won't stop me

By Graham Clark

Published 20/02/2016

Impeded: Victoria Pendleton about to part company with Pacha Du Polder (left) as Carey Williamson and Baltic Blue hit the deck at Fakenham yesterday
Impeded: Victoria Pendleton about to part company with Pacha Du Polder (left) as Carey Williamson and Baltic Blue hit the deck at Fakenham yesterday

Victoria Pendleton has vowed to ride at next month's Cheltenham Festival despite being unseated on her first ride over regulation fences in the Betfair Switching Saddles "Grassroots" Fox Hunters' Chase at Fakenham.

The dual Olympic champion cyclist was riding nine-year-old Pacha Du Polder for the second time, with the pair having been beaten in a photo-finish at the Milborne St Andrew point-to-point in late January.

The Paul Nicholls-trained gelding was the 8-13 favourite for this three-mile contest and Pendleton gave her mount time to find his feet, initially dropping him out at the rear of the six-runner field.

Pacha Du Polder 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.

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 disappointed I didn't give 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 knocked me to one side.

"I didn't have four feet on the ground and I came out the side door. It's one of those things, it's racing - it's what happens.

"It doesn't always go to plan and it's onwards and upwards."

Pendleton, 35, said she has escaped injury and that she still wants to ride Pacha Du Polder at the Cheltenham Festival, which starts on March 15.

She said: "I hope Cheltenham is still the plan. Hopefully I'll get another opportunity to sit on him, and get as many rides in as possible between now and then.

"It's up to the team of experts to decide whether I'm ready for Cheltenham - I hope I am.

"I've not had a fall until now really. It's a bruised ego but it won't put me off.

"You have to expect a setback and this was one of those days."

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 Cheltenham.

After four months of intensive training with racehorse trainer Lawney Hill, eventing guru Yogi Breisner and former event rider Chris King, Pendleton gained valuable racecourse experience in charity events and, later, in amateur riders' races on the Flat.

She came close to making a dream debut under Rules after finishing second, beaten by a head, aboard Royal Etiquette on her first ride as a fully-fledged amateur at Ripon in August.

She turned her attentions to jumping in the autumn, riding in point-to-points before making her debut under National Hunt Rules at Fakenham.

Pacha Du Polder, who carries the colours of the Stewart family and finished second over the Grand National fences in the Fox Hunters' Chase at Aintree last term, had already been earmarked as Pendleton's Festival ride in the St James' Place Foxhunter Chase on March 18.

Belfast Telegraph

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