Horse racing: Olympic cycling champion Victoria Pendleton relishes new life as jockey

Victoria Pendleton.
Victoria Pendleton. PHOTO: STELLA MCCARTNEY

LONDON (AFP/GUARDIAN) - Olympic track cycling champion Victoria Pendleton found herself in a saddle of a different kind as she launched her new career as a jockey in a race at Newbury racecourse in southern England on Thursday.

The 34-year-old finished in eighth place aboard Mighty Mambo in the George Frewer Charity Race, with the horse nicely settled towards the rear of the field.

Twice an Olympic gold medallist, the British star on two wheels is aiming for success on four legs after training to become a rider.

She is aiming to compete in the Foxhunter Chase for amateur riders at next year's Cheltenham Festival, one of Britain's most prestigious jumps meetings, in south-west England.

Pendleton's mount made good ground down the long straight and was not too far back from eventual winner Oratorio's Joy in the one-mile-five-furlong (2,600m) race.

She said: "I loved every minute of it, but it was over so quickly, I wish I could do it again. My only fear was not to get run away with at the start, and die a death in the home straight. I wanted to finish as part of the group and not look out of place.

"I tried to be patient, but I left myself with a bit too much to do and I should have gone for a gap a bit sooner. It just happened so quickly, and I was annoyed I was at the back when the flag went down, but you live and learn and that's part of the experience.

"My aim was to get through the race, not look out of place or fall off, and to get to the end in one piece.

"When training a horse you don't get to push them at home, so I don't know if I was doing it right. We'll have a look at the replays and look at my technique in training."

Timeform race-reader and Racing UK commentator David Cleary was impressed with the ride, stating: "She's done really well on him given that she was up against riders with much more experience."

Pendleton had undergone four months of training under a team of experts recruited by Betfair and had been riding out five times a week for Oxfordshire-based trainer Lawney Hill, for whom she rode in Thursday's race.

She added: "One skill I need to work on is using the whip, as I've carried it but never used it and that's next on the list of things to do.

"One of the biggest things about riding a horse is you have to keep your cool to a whole new level, it's helped develop myself as an athlete as you have to build this phenomenal relationship with the horse.

"I've been missing a challenge. I wanted something to get out of bed for and something that training fulfilled, and this filled the gap.

"If I get to the start line at Cheltenham it will be a huge win for me, as I appreciate how tough jumps racing is. People underestimate how much work jockeys put in."