By Simon Jackson.
Ruby Walsh has said Victoria Pendleton should ‘just go out and enjoy it’ after news that she has been confirmed as the rider of Pacha Du Polder at Cheltenham next week.
The dual Olympic Gold medal-winning cyclist bagged her first win as an amateur jockey on the Andy Stewart-owned Pacha Du Polder at Wincanton on March 2, two weeks after unseating on her first ride on the Paul Nicholls-trained gelding.
Connections on Monday confirmed the partnership would target the three miles and two furlongs St. James´s Place Foxhunter Chase Challenge Cup, which is on the same card as the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup on March 18.
And Walsh, the all-time leading rider at the four-day Festival whose successes include two victories in the Cheltenham Gold Cup on the great Kauto Star, believes it will be a great experience for Pendleton.
“I think it’s great what Victoria is trying to do. She’s competitive, is used to winning gold medals at the Olympic Games and now wants a shot at racing’s Olympics,” Walsh told the Paddy Power Blog.
“Victoria clearly gets a real buzz out of race-riding and loves what she’s doing so fair play to her.
“The Foxhunters Chase is a tough race to win. There’ll be a lot of runners but as a high-performance athlete she should be as fit – if not fitter – than a lot of the other amateur riders taking part.
“It will be the most competitive race she’s ever ridden in to date as there’s always plenty of runners. It’s also going to be the biggest live audience she’s ever performed in front of, as there’ll be up to 70,000 people at the racecourse cheering the horses home on Cheltenham Gold Cup day.
“If I was to offer any advice it would just to go out there and enjoy it. It should be a thrilling experience.”
The news has delighted Pendleton, who expressed her delight when she first 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.
“I’m delighted that Andy Stewart has kindly made Pacha Du Polder available for point-to-points and potentially Cheltenham,” Pendleton said before her first ride on the nine-year-old. “It’s great that an owner of Andy’s stature is putting his faith in me to ride one of his horses.”
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