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> How will Victoria Pendleton do in the Foxhunters Chase?
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How will Victora Pendleton do in the Foxhunters Chase
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Mack'sXmasSack
post Mar 17 2016, 08:29 PM
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As people may have heard:

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Double Olympic gold-winning cyclist Victoria Pendleton will tomorrow change horses, as it were, from a two-wheeled machine to a four- legged equine.

And as she sets off in the Cheltenham Festival’s Foxhunter Chase, one of the most competitive races for amateurs, those in the know will hold their collective breath.

For riding a racehorse is a very different proposition from riding a bicycle.

I write as someone who has ridden both — and endured competitive horse races — though not, it must be said, at the extreme level Ms Pendleton has chosen to partake.

But then, I didn’t have a bookmaker stuffing my pockets with £200,000 — the sum she is reputedly being paid by the online Betfair, in what is generally being seen as a cynical and potentially very dangerous stunt.

My fear is this stunt — which ensures the bookmaker publicity because of Pendleton’s celebrity status and the fact she sports their logo in photoshoots — not only detracts from one of the great events of the British sporting calendar, but could also go horribly wrong.

I am not trying to sound alarmist, but what happens if, God forbid, Pendleton is injured or if one of the other riders is hurt as a result of her inexperience? How would this publicity gamble look then?

Steeplechasing — racing over fences — is a rough game for horse and jockey. Witness the three dead horses on the first day of this year’s meeting and the horrendous injuries sustained over the years by many jockeys. Backs and necks are broken, and jockeys are left horribly disfigured and often crippled.


Not for nothing is there a charity called The Injured Jockeys Fund, dedicated to the welfare of former jockeys and stable staff hurt in the line of duty. It is an admirable charity and one that is constantly in need of funds.

Twelve months ago, Pendleton had never even sat on a horse. Yet she seems to have been only too eager to accept the bookmaker’s challenge to ‘switch saddles’ in return for her substantial fee.

But then, she’s never shied from making the most of an opportunity. In the run-up to the 2008 Olympics, to the fury of her cycling team-mates, she started a relationship with her coach Scott Gardner, to whom she is now married.


Pendleton has already been unseated while riding on Vasco Du Mee during the Fox Hunters' steeple chase in Fakenham racecourse last month although fortunately she escaped from her tumble without any injury

And following her success in the 2012 Games, she was quick to sign up as a contestant for Strictly Come Dancing.

At least in the run-up to Cheltenham, she has been in good hands. Champion trainer Paul Nicholls has given her a competent horse and she has been coached by Yogi Breisner, the manager of the British Olympic three-day eventing team and tutor to many a jockey.

She has also been schooled by the great A. P. McCoy, the finest steeplechase jockey of all time, and she has been riding six days a week for a year.

But for none of that time has she faced anything like the harsh brush fences standing at nearly 5ft over a Cheltenham course of more than three miles.

And on her debut over jumps on a professional racecourse last month, at the tiny Norfolk track of Fakenham, she fell off her horse. Competing against just five others, she was unseated after only one circuit and her exit came as she jumped alongside a rival for the first time in the race.

John Francome, the former champion jump jockey, watched her fall, and his verdict was damning. She can’t ride, he said, ‘she’s an accident waiting to happen . . . she wants stopping before she hurts herself’.

Tomorrow’s contest will be an entirely different affair from the race at Fakenham. She’ll be up against the most competitive amateur jockeys in Britain and Ireland and there will be 20 in the line-up, not six.

She will be a dangerous distraction to the other riders, and if she hopes they’ll give her any leeway she’d better have a re-think.

Many of the jockeys lining up against her are very experienced indeed and some are as good as the professionals who risk life and limb every day. Being a jockey is the only profession in the world where an ambulance follows your every stride.

Riding a racehorse is not for the faint-hearted, as I know too well.

I lost 4st to race after deciding, aged 47 and in the grip of a moderate mid-life crisis, to rediscover my love of horses and become a jockey for a short while.

I sweated and starved and had the time of my life. But I had ridden since childhood, I’d hunted and handled horses, and — more or less — knew what I was doing. I am not sure that the same can be said for Pendleton.

Even then I had a hairy time. There is nothing like an oat-filled racehorse popping out of its skin with energy to concentrate the mind. My first work ride (a practice race) ended in an unmitigated disaster

Horses are a herd animal, they like being together, and my horse, Dancing Marabout, was pulling my arms out of their sockets to speed ahead of his friends.

The more he pulled, the more I tried to stop him. The more I tried to stop him, the more he pulled. The rain was lashing down, the reins were slippery and I was totally out of control.

The over-riding memory I have is of being passed in my panic by professional jockey Jimmy McCarthy. Sitting stylishly on his mount and eating up the ground, he was at ease and in overdrive.

He was two lengths ahead of me before I knew it. I had ridden flat-out for a mile at the head of the pack with McCarthy on my shoulder just biding his time before he pounced. That is the difference between an experienced jockey and someone who thinks they can ride.

If Ms Pendleton’s pronouncements about horses are anything to go by, then I’d be giving her a wide berth were I one of the other jockeys.

One of her gems is: ‘A horse is very intuitive; it feels what you are thinking.’ There is a lot of nonsense talked about horses, but that comes close to being the daftest thing anyone has ever said about the horse.

On one occasion, when I was again hopelessly out of control, my horse was riding at full throttle with its head turned at right angles to the direction of travel.

I doubt the racehorse was thinking about me as it was galloping at around 40 mph not looking where it was going.

On my first day at the racing stables, I looked in the accident log book. I was horrified by the catalogue of injuries — from missing teeth to broken legs, a detached kneecap and a fractured pelvis. And these lads knew what they were doing.

There’s a great tradition of the gutsy amateur jockey. The late Duke of Alburquerque, a courtier to the Spanish royal family, rode in the Grand National seven times, finishing only once — he came eighth when Red Rum first won the race in 1974.

But in 1976, at 56, he fell and was left unconscious for two days. He was banned from racing again in the UK, though he continued to race in his native Spain into his late 60s.

His recklessness shows that if you catch the horse bug, as Pendleton claims to have done, it is a very difficult thing to shake off.

The over-arching objection purist racegoers — I include myself among them — have to Pendleton’s involvement in their sport is the feeling the whole thing has been hijacked and made more dangerous by the bookmaker and a celebrity cyclist.

To be fair, celebrities are not new to racing. The late Monkees singer Davey Jones rode in amateur races, as did Prince Charles, like Jones, an accomplished horseman.

But neither were facing fences at Cheltenham at the premier jump meeting of the year.

The racing correspondent on this paper, Marcus Townend, is shedding stones as I did in order to ride in a race. His task will not be easy, but it is do-able.

He has chosen the oldest race held under Jockey Club rules, the Newmarket Town Plate. Though undoubtedly gruelling, there is one crucial difference between this ambition and that of Victoria Pembleton — the race is on the flat.

Still hazardous, but nowhere near as dangerous as the course at Cheltenham.



From the Daily Mail.


What do you think?
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jark
post Mar 18 2016, 12:13 AM
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I think anyone who read that vile Daily Mail article to the end could do with a slap. She hooked up with her coach so she's an opportunist who shouldn't ride horses. Sound logic!

I think she'll place and good on her for doing this.
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richie
post Mar 18 2016, 09:22 AM
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I reckon she'll complete the course but quite far down. The media circus surrounding her change of sports will then die down completely.
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Mack'sXmasSack
post Mar 18 2016, 09:51 AM
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QUOTE(jark @ Mar 18 2016, 12:13 AM) *
I think anyone who read that vile Daily Mail article to the end could do with a slap. She hooked up with her coach so she's an opportunist who shouldn't ride horses. Sound logic!

I think she'll place and good on her for doing this.

I didn't read all of it by the way.

I think she has done a remarkable job to get to the Foxhunters Chase.

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Mack'sXmasSack
post Mar 18 2016, 05:50 PM
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She wasn't that far with the winning horse which was On The Fringe ridden by Nina Carberry. A fast-finishing fifth place when other horses tired and she come right back from last place on the first circuit to finish 5th. A very good effort from Victoria Pendleton.

She could come back next year and possibly win it. That was an impressive ride you have to say. Victoria has proved a lot of people wrong including John Francome who was a big critic on her going for the Foxhunters.

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