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Victoria celebrates with a high five

By Graham Clark

Victoria Pendleton showed her champion spirit as she answered her critics in some style by finishing a fantastic fifth on Pacha Du Polder in the Foxhunter Chase at Cheltenham.

The race was won by Nina Carberry on board On The Fringe, with Marito - trained in Crossgar by Colin McBratney and ridden by Newry's Noel McParlan - in second place.

But dual Olympic cycling gold medallist Pendleton - who has been riding for less than a year and was mentored by Ulster great AP McCoy in an initiative backed by Betfair - believes riding over the Grand National fences in Aintree's Foxhunter Chase next month would prove "a step too far" at this stage.

She said: "The first couple of fences came really quickly but I got settled into a rhythm and he jumped so beautifully.

"He really gave me a great opportunity and was very relaxed.

"I was trying not to expend too much energy and I knew I just had to hunt round. If I'd not had the whip stuck in my breast girth up the run in, I may have even got fourth.

"Nobody knew whether this was possible, me included, but I've given it my best shot and taken it step by step. I had 100 per cent faith from the start and I trusted my experts and their belief whichever decision they came to (about her participation).

"I think, for me, Aintree is a step too far. I'm more likely to sprout wings and start flying myself than ride there. With my level of experience, it would take me a few more seasons before I could consider that.

"To be honest I really enjoy the point-to-points. It's been really lovely and relaxed and I've been really welcomed in by the other jockeys.

"I just want to consolidate what I've done to become a more competent horsewoman.

"I think the achievement comes on the back of (owner)Andy Stewart and (champion trainer) Paul Nicholls allowing me to ride such a fantastic horse, although a more experienced jockey may have won the race.

"I just really want to enjoy going back to the yard and riding out first lot. I just want to go and enjoy riding now as I love the training side of it all every day and watching them come on.

"I look forward to riding out and just learning more about the craft without any more pressure, as I've not had that luxury. Now I have got that time on my side to sit back, relax and enjoy it.

"I was just focused on what I was doing and once I got to the finishing straight, I was aware there was noise.

"The reception felt like I'd won and I feel very lucky for that. I didn't expect to get that sort of cheer, it was humbling really and it ranks right up there with being at the Olympic velodrome.

"I feel very honoured and a fortunate human being to be given such a wonderful opportunity. It was a ridiculously audacious dream and we gave it our best shot."

Belfast Telegraph


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