Cycling golden girl Victoria Pendleton will take another step to becoming a qualified amateur jockey by riding in her first race at Newbury on Thursday (July 2).
Pendleton, who first took up cycling with Mildenhall Cycling Club and still remains a gold member, will be remembered as one of the greatest female riders to grace the track after amassing a total of 19 medals and six world records, including a gold and silver at the London 2012 Olympic Games in her swansong of an illustrious career.
However, after retiring from the track following her Olympic exploits, the 34-year-old decided to switch saddles with an ambitious goal of riding at the prestigious Cheltenham Festival next March.
The first step towards her achieving her ambition will come in the form of the George Frewer Charity Race next week — and Pendleton is relishing the opportunity.
“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,” said Pendleton who has been training at The British Racing School in Newmarket as part of her preparations.
“Although I have to say, taking part in this Charity Race, back in a competitive environment, will probably top my other experiences on this journey to date.
“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.
“But right now I’m just focused on continuing my preparations for Newbury and I just can’t wait to line up there.”
Pendleton has learned the basics of horse riding under the guidance of Team GB Eventing squad Performance Manager Yogi Breisner and developed her skills with former event rider Chris King with the former believing Thursday’s race is the perfect test for his student.
“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,” said Breisner.
“The timing of Newbury’s charity event provided a challenging yet realistic target to aim for and the race is run at a distance of one-and-a-half miles which is long enough to provide Victoria with an opportunity to take in and learn from the unique experience of riding in a race.
“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.”