Victoria Pendleton seems to be enjoying her new career as a jockey, after completing her first race in the saddle yesterday at Newbury. The former track #Cycling queen for Team GB in the Olympics, rode the eight-year-old gelding Mighty Mambo to a creditable 8th place in the George Frewer Charity Race over one mile and five furlongs.
Many would have no doubt raised their eyebrows initially at the alternative sporting career choice that the 34-year-old has chosen. Yet in much the same way as Sir Chris Hoy seems to be enjoying racing cars after his time in the saddle has ended, Pendleton seems determined to become successful in horseracing.
Started riding only recently
Speaking in the build up to the race, the former elite cyclist told reporters that she had only had four months in which to prepare for her first race starting from scratch, with the aim of becoming an amateur jockey. Although she recognised that in that time she had already learned so much about the intricacies of the sport, she also readily acknowledged that "we will see if I am ready for this race" and also that she still has plenty to learn.
Critical of her position
It would have certainly been a nervous opening to her racing career, but Pendleton seemed to enjoy the experience judging by her reaction afterwards. She said that she had "loved it" but was "actually slightly cross" with herself after the (slow) start she made. Clearly the harsh analysis of unsound tactics and strategy that she had in her cycling days is just as astute in her new surroundings.
Clearly her main aim was to get around in one piece and as she told BBC Sport, not to seem "out of place." Yet her horse remained strong as the finishing line approached, suggesting that maybe the combination could have been nearer the front of the race. She will no doubt learn with more experience, as many riders have done before her, as she improves her horse 'sense' and jockey intuition.
No matter what she achieves in racing in the future, she will be warmly remembered within the cycling fraternity for many years to come no doubt. The memories of her two Olympic gold medal rides in Beijing (sprint) and especially in London 2012 (Keirin) are still vivid for many enthusiasts of the sport. She finished on a high, retiring from competitive cycling after London.
As far as long-term ambitions in racing are concerned, her stated aim is to compete in next year's Foxhunters Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. This was the first competitive step towards that challenging goal, one which Pendleton seems determined to achieve. It is unclear whether she intends to race on the flat again this season, with the immediate target of an assessment for her category 'A' amateur licence expected to be undertaken later in the summer. #Horse Racing