Pendleton shines on official horse racing debut

Positive start for Olympian in Cheltenham 2016 challenge


Double Olympic champion Victoria Pendleton’s first race as a licensed jockey may have flown under the radar, but he race at Ripon, the Betfair Novice Flat Amateur Riders’ Handicap at the end of August still managed to see a good crowd hang around on the rainy evening to see one of Britain’s greatest ever athletes continue in her new challenge.

Thanks to a sponsorship from online betting site Betfair, Pendleton, who is Britain’s most successful female Olympian is on a mission to ride at the 2016 Cheltenham Festival. She has switched saddles from bikes to horses in the challenge, taking up the Sport of Kings as an absolute amatuer and she shone in her first race as a licensed jockey.

She was never expected to win the Betfair Novice Flat Amateur Riders’ Handicap and she didn’t, but she came ever so close. She was running on Royal Etiquette as was right in the frame at the death only getting pipped by a head on the 12/1 outside shot.

Her performance, just six months and six days after first getting on a horse, was a swift rebuke to the doubters who have seen her journey as nothing more than a publicity stunt for Betfair.

‘I wouldn’t have got the same chance if I had not won two Olympics and nine world championships,’ said Pendleton. ‘So I’ve put in the leg work in another way. I have jumped the queue but I hope everyone knows I know that and I feel I’m blessed to have this opportunity.

Pendleton’s goal is gain entry to the Foxhunters’ Chase at Cheltenham next spring. Pendleton, smiling through a series of interviews, said: ‘It has been a remarkable journey already. When I set out on the challenge, lots of people said it was impossible.