Victoria Pendleton: rides in a charity race at Newbury on ThursdayPICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Pendleton 'excited and nervous' about debut
DUAL Olympic champion Victoria Pendleton used to be sick with nerves when competing in the track cycling arena so it comes as no surprise to hear she is a little apprehensive about making her race-riding debut at Newbury on Thursday.
Pendleton, who announced in March her ultimate aim of riding at the 2016 Cheltenham Festival, takes a significant step in her saddle switch by partnering the Lawney Hill-trained Mighty Mambo in the George Frewer Charity Race over 1m5f.
"It's been four months since I partnered with Betfair and started to learn to ride with a view to becoming an amateur jockey and I've learnt so much, but we will see if I am ready for this race," she said.
"I've been training hard and working with the world-class team of experts provided by Betfair and I am excited at the prospect of riding in a race, while feeling a bit nervous as well."
Britain's most successful female Olympian has been riding out five times a week at Hill's Oxfordshire yard and has also received guidance from the likes of Yogi Breisner and former event rider Chris King.
"The one thing she said to us is that she is really enjoying learning something new at this stage in her life," said Hill.
"I spoke to Victoria's husband Scott the other day and he said the riding has really got her alive again. It is often difficult for top-class athletes to fill the void when they retire and one thing I learnt is that with cycling when you finish your career, that's it."
Pendleton, 34, partners eight-year-old Mighty Mambo, a winner on the Flat and over hurdles, against ten other rivals in a race due off at 5.55pm.
"Yogi has masterminded the whole thing and has been very happy with her progress," added Hill. "He said the aim for Newbury is a 'safe clear' - not a 'quick four faults'.
"We are looking to get the whole operation done without anything going wrong. Thursday at Newbury is going to be a very big step for Victoria. She obviously can't sneak in under the radar because of her public profile and so we have got to make sure everything goes as right as it possibly can.
"Mighty Mambo is never going to win any races at Royal Ascot, but hopefully he will take care of her and Victoria trusts him, having ridden him out at home. It is very sporting of Mambo's owners Fortnum Racing to join in this venture.
"She won't be favourite for the horse's reputation, but she will definitely be having a go as she is very competitive."
Betfair make a Pendleton a 2-1 shot to finish in the first five in a race which also features another dual Olympic gold medal winner in Mark Todd, who won individual eventing in 1984 and 1988.