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2016 Foxhunter Chase runners - Victoria Pendleton goes for gold at Cheltenham on Friday

Jon Wilde in Fri. 17th March 17 Mar 2016
  • Victoria Pendleton rides in the Foxhunter Chase at Cheltenham on Friday
  • Find out about her 'Switching Saddles' quest and the opposition she faces
Victoria Pendleton riding Pacha Du Polder (credit: Cheltenhampro.com)

Victoria Pendleton and Pacha Du Polder will be among a field of 24 as the dual Olympic cycling champion’s ‘Switching Saddles’ project culminates in the St James's Place Foxhunter Chase (4.10pm) at the Cheltenham Festival on Friday.

As the dust starts to settle following the blue riband event of the meeting, the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Pendleton will become the focus when the Foxhunter Chase captures a great deal more attention than usual rather than being a case of ‘after the Lord Mayor’s Show’.

The 35-year-old embarked on the ‘Switching Saddles’ challenge just over a year ago with the ultimate aim of competing at the world’s premier National Hunt meeting.

She initially suffered a blow when unseated from Pacha Du Polder on her first start under rules at Fakenham, but gained swift compensation when steering that horse to victory at Wincanton on Wednesday March 2.

Pendleton had to await the verdict of the team of experts who have guided her education in the saddle with Pacha Du Polder's trainer Paul Nicholls, jumping guru Yogi Breisner and Lawney and Alan Hill having the final say on her Festival dream.

But the green light was shown and Pendleton heads to Cheltenham with an outside chance of adding a major equine victory to her Olympic gold medals.

Explaining why she had taken up the challenge, Pendleton said:
“I don’t want to live in the past. That, for me, would have been a really uncomfortable prospect. I always felt my cycling career was a stepping stone to something else. The cycling brought me to horses and that pleases me a lot. I’m pushing forward with my life. 
"I love riding racehorses. It’s such a thrill. I love everything about them. There really is nothing quite like it. I feel blessed to be having this experience. It’s a very exclusive experience and I’m thrilled to now be considered a competent work rider.”

Some old favourites will be in opposition to Pendleton and Nicholls-trained Pacha Du Polder, including Nina Carberry’s mount On The Fringe, last year’s winner of this race who had previously finished third and fourth.

Chapoturgeon was a 2009 Cheltenham Festival winner for Nicholls, while Paint The Clouds was third in this race last year and Aupcharlie has previously filled the same position in the Champion Bumper.


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2016 Foxhunter Chase runners - Victoria Pendleton goes for gold at Cheltenham on Friday

Victoria Pendleton and Pacha Du Polder will be among a field of 24 as the dual Olympic cycling champion’s ‘Switching Saddles’ project culminates in the St James's Place Foxhunter Chase at the Cheltenham Festival on Friday.

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