Dual Olympic cycling champion Victoria Pendleton is planning to make her debut as an amateur rider in a charity race on the flat at Newbury next month.
Despite being a total novice in the saddle, the 34-year-old announced in March she was training to become a jockey with a long-term aim of competing in the Foxhunter Chase at next year’s Cheltenham Festival.
Having undergone four months of intensive training under a team of experts recruited by her sponsor Betfair, Pendleton is riding out five times a week at Lawney Hill’s Oxfordshire yard and has set her sights on the George Frewer Charity Race on July 2 as her intended debut.
“When I partnered with Betfair to switch saddles and become an amateur jockey, I knew it would be one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced but I’ve already enjoyed so many exciting experiences,” Pendleton said.
“The first time I sat on a race horse and didn’t fall off was a relief. The first time I cantered on the gallops was exhilarating and the first time I jumped in the riding school and schooled over brush fences were hugely satisfying and exciting steps for me.
“The last few months haven’t all been plain sailing though, getting initially used to and then learning to jump in a racing saddle was very different and challenging, and I’d be fibbing if I said I haven’t fallen off a few times along the way.”
Eventing guru Yogi Breisner has provided Pendleton with expert tuition, while former event rider Chris King helped with her non-racing equestrian skills.
“We decided that the charity Flat race at Newbury was the best event for Victoria to get her first experience of race-riding for a number of reasons,” Breisner said.
“It’s a key milestone if we are to hit our target of Victoria successfully obtaining her category A licence with a view to riding at Cheltenham next year.”