By Simon Jackson.
Olympic gold medallist Victoria Pendleton’s hopes of riding at the Cheltenham Festival have been boosted by the news that she has gained the ride on the useful Pacha Du Polder.
The nine-year-old finished in the first three in all of his four runs last year that includes a second place in the Crabbie’s Foxhunters’ Chase at Aintree and winning a Hunters’ Chase at Ludlow.
The dual gold medal-winning cyclist has been riding out regularly for trainers Alan and Lawney Hill since taking up horse racing this year and had her first ride since switching saddles on Hill’s Mighty Mambo in a charity race at Newbury last July.
Pendleton has since completed a two-day course at the British Racing School to get a flat and jumps racing licence and has now also ridden in four point-to-points, the most recent on Sunday when she finished fourth on Supreme Danehill at Black Forest Lodge.
Pacha Du Polder is raced by well-known owner Andy Stewart who said he is ‘delighted’ that the 35-year-old Olympian will be riding for his family.
“The Stewart Family are delighted that Victoria will be riding Pacha Du Polder for us in point-to-points, and who knows maybe even at Cheltenham,” he said on Pendleton’s Betfair blog.
“It was thrilling at Aintree as he looked the winner until Nina Carberry joined him at the last and JP’s [McManus] On The Fringe beat us, so this year it might be a women’s race. We are very excited about the coming months.”
The Chloe Roddick-trained Pacha Du Polder has won six and placed six times in 21 starts and is already qualified for this year’s Foxhunters and Pendleton said she is thrilled that the ride has been made available to her.
“I’m delighted that Andy Stewart has kindly made Pacha Du Polder available for point-to-points and potentially Cheltenham,” Pendleton said. “It’s great that an owner of Andy’s stature is putting his faith in me to ride one of his horses.”
Alan Hill added: “Victoria continues to make great progress and Black Forest was another step forward for her.
“This stage of the challenge is beginning to build important momentum and we are keen to continue giving Victoria as much experience of riding in point-to-points as possible. It’s important to let people with suitable horses know that they can contact me with a view to Victoria riding them in point-to-points.”
Read ‘Horse Talk with Simon Jackson’ at London24 for the latest horse racing news.