Wincanton next for Victoria Pendleton as Cheltenham creeps closer

Olympic gold medalist teams up with Pacha Du Polder again after Fakenham fall

 Victoria Pendleton (front) falls from Pacha Du Polder during her first start under Rules at Fakenham. She rides again at Wincanton on Wednesday. Photograph: PA

Victoria Pendleton (front) falls from Pacha Du Polder during her first start under Rules at Fakenham. She rides again at Wincanton on Wednesday. Photograph: PA

 

Victoria Pendleton has expressed her gratitude for all the support she has received in her ‘Switching Saddles’ project as she gears up for another start under Rules at Wincanton on Wednesday.

The dual Olympic champion cyclist set out with the aim of riding in the St James’s Place Foxhunter Chase at this month’s Cheltenham Festival when embarking on the challenge just over a year ago.

After a handful of rides on the Flat and some regular mounts on the point-to-point circuit, Pendleton made her first start under Rules when teaming up with possible Cheltenham mount Pacha Du Polder at Fakenham just under two weeks ago.

However, Pendleton was unseated at the seventh fence that day, prompting plenty of opinion from some quarters about her ability to tackle the amateurs’ equivalent of the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

While Pendleton admits that dream is not certain be realised, she has acknowledged the backing she has received ahead of teaming up once again with Pacha Du Polder in the Betfair Switching Saddles Hunters’ Chase at Wincanton.

She said: “There have been a few knocks and setbacks along the way and of course there was the fall at Fakenham. But being totally honest and realistic, I would be surprised if such setbacks didn’t come with a challenge of this magnitude, and in the sport of horse racing! I love learning and improving, which is something I really missed when I finished cycling and that’s exactly why I’ve been bitten by the horse racing bug.

“Rather than dwelling on one unfortunate incident. I have focused on listening to what the support team are telling me, analysing my performances and ultimately improving my skills and experience.”

“The whole experience has been an incredible new chapter in my life and it’s definitely a story I will continue writing well beyond the outcome of this challenge, whether I make it to Cheltenham or not.

“But for now, I’m focusing on Wincanton on Wednesday and I really can’t wait.”

Pacha Du Polder faces seven rivals, including Big Fella Thanks, who finished fourth in the 2010 Grand National, and Gauvain, a Grade Two winner as a novice and placed in Grade One company in his pomp.

Flaming Gorge, Never Complain, Blinding Lights, Ambitious Pursuit and Ziggie complete the line up.

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