CYCLING champion Victoria Pendleton, Britain’s most successful female Olympian, hopes to get her sporting career back on track – as a jump jockey.
Even though she had never sat on a horse until last week, she has already set her sights on securing sufficient rides in order to compete at next year’s Cheltenham Festival – the Olympics of National Hunt racing.
The 34-year-old, who retired from the saddle after a golden farewell at the London Olympics, believes she will be good enough to compete over fences in the Christie’s Foxhunter Chase – the Gold Cup for amateur riders.
Yet, while Pendleton will be no stranger to the hazards after a lifetime spent in the velodrome, it will be a remarkable achievement if she is even good enough to acquire a Category A amateur licence.
This would allow her to ride in amateur races on the Flat and over jumps, as well as competing in the point-to-point sphere. She has already enlisted the help of champion trainer Paul Nicholls and the top equine guru Yogi Breisner.
“I’m motivated by the scale of the challenge and the opportunity to combine my love of horses with learning a new skill,” said an excited Pendleton after being put through her paces on the gallops.
“My team and I have identified the ambitious target of riding competitively in the Foxhunter Chase at Cheltenham next year, but the initial focus will be on getting me to a level whereby I am granted an amateur jockey licence, which is a significant challenge in itself given that I had never even sat on a horse until a week ago.”
Breisner will be acting as a mentor to Pendleton and believes her athletic mindset will be a huge plus. He said: “Victoria is a hugely talented, ambitious and gutsy individual, and these traits will stand her in the best stead possible. Having worked with her for a week, the progress she has made is remarkable.”