Victoria Pendleton all the rage at Fakenham race meeting

Fakenham Races, Victoria Pendleton taking part in the Betfair Switching Saddles Grassroots Fox Hunters Chase at 4.10 
Wearing Red/White/Black ANL-160220-092037009
Fakenham Races, Victoria Pendleton taking part in the Betfair Switching Saddles Grassroots Fox Hunters Chase at 4.10 Wearing Red/White/Black ANL-160220-092037009

Fakenham Racecourse has never witnessed anything quite like it on what was billed as ‘Victoria Pendleton Day’.

As a rule, nobody bats an eyelid at the emergence of jockeys for a hunter chase, but then hardly any jockey has ever possessed the fame that Victoria Pendleton carries around with her.

The appearance of the double Olympic cycling champion, competing in her first race under rules, caused huge interest to the general public and media alike.

Crowds, and not just racing fans, flocked to wherever they could get a glimpse of the 35-year-old, who many perhaps know for her stint on Strictly Come Dancing back in 2012 as well as her cycling gold medals at the last two Olympics.

Her debut under rules ended in unfortunate circumstances when she was unseated on her first ride over regulation fences in the Betfair Switching Saddles “Grassroots” Fox Hunters’ Chase.

The dual Olympic champion cyclist was riding the nine-year-old Pacha Du Polder for a second time, with the pair having been beaten in a photo-finish at a point-to-point meeting last month.

The race was won by Vasco Du Mee.

Pendleton announced last March that she was embarking on the Betfair-backed ‘Switching Saddles’ challenge to make the transition from velodrome to racecourse, with the ultimate aim of riding at the Cheltenham Festival.

After her demise at the seventh fence, Pendleton said: “I was really looking forward to the race and another opportunity to ride such a fabulous horse.

“Pacha Du Polder is so excellent and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every fence we’ve schooled over.

“I’m very disappointed I didn’t given him a fair shot. He was an odds-on favourite and it was a disappointing job from me, I think.

“I think the horse next to me (Baltic Blue) propped in and as we both came over together he sort of knocked me to one side.

“I didn’t have four feet on the ground and I came out the side door. It’s one of those things, it’s racing – it’s what happens. It doesn’t always go to plan and it’s onwards and upwards.”

Despite her setback, Pendleton still has designs of competing at this year’s Cheltenham Festival.

“It’s up to the team of experts to decide whether I’m ready for Cheltenham – I hope I am.

“I appreciate this is what happens, and it was going to happen sooner or later. I’ve had a good run, I’ve not had a fall until now really.

“More than anything it’s a bruised ego but it won’t put me off.

“I absolutely love riding horses and I’d love to be a work-rider until the end of my days, maybe get a couple of horses myself and do some pointing.

“You have to expect a setback at some point and this was one of those days, unfortunately.”