Victoria Pendleton was dramatically unseated from her scheduled Cheltenham Festival mount Pacha Du Polder on her racecourse jumps debut at Fakenham yesterday.
The dual Olympic champion cyclist fell off the 8-13 favourite at the seventh fence as Baltic Blue, who was a length in front of her, came down just in front of the Pendleton-ridden runner. Pacha Du Polder appeared to overjump at the fence in front of the grandstand on the first circuit of the three-mile race and unbalance her inexperienced rider.
Pendleton, who was soon on her feet, said afterwards: “I’m okay, just annoyed. I didn’t have a chance to stay on. The horse in front jumped a bit squiffy and I went out the side door.
“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 very disappointed I didn’t given 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 sort of 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 Cheltenham.
“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,” she said.
“It’s up to the team of experts to decide whether I’m ready for Cheltenham; I hope I am. I appreciate this is what happens, and it was going to happen sooner or later. I’ve had a good run, I’ve not had a fall until now really.”
Pendleton had kept Pacha Du Polder well behind the other five runners in the early stages but her mount had gradually warmed to his task and was on the heels of the leaders when he departed. The race was eventually won by Vasco Du Mee.
Pendleton announced at last year's Cheltenham Festival that she was embarking on the Betfair-backed "Switching Saddles" challenge to make the transition from velodrome to racecourse. 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.
Her team turned their attention to jumping in the autumn, with Pendleton riding in several point-to-point races before making her debut under National Hunt Rules at Fakenham. Guardian Service