Daily Express

Best of luck but be safe


I GREETED the news that Victoria Pendleton has been given the green light to ride at the Cheltenham Festival with mixed feelings.

On the one hand it is commendabl­e that the double Olympic gold medal- winning cyclist has been rewarded after putting so much effort into her bid to ride in the Foxhunter Chase.

She has worked incredibly hard and suffered a lot of criticism, some of it unwarrante­d, from people who ought to have been singing her praises.

By her own admission, Pendleton has ridden more than 70 different horses in her quest to fulfi l her Festival dream.

But there is a danger that the Pendleton sideshow will completely engulf the biggest jumps meeting of the whole year. Fairground­s have sideshows; Cheltenham does not need one. The Festival meeting is a supreme test of horse and rider and nothing – not even a celebrity Olympian – should be allowed to detract from that. But, unfortunat­ely, it will turn into a media feeding frenzy a week on Friday when the Foxhunter Chase is run.

Pendleton will be aboard a pretty safe conveyance in the shape of Pacha Du Polder, trained by Paul Nicholls.

And she showed she was capable enough when winning on the horse at Wincanton last week. But she was unseated on the fl at in a point- to- point on Saturday – her last ride before Cheltenham.

At Wincanton she spoke eloquently about her newfound love for horse racing – valuable PR for a sport that has its fair share of detractors.

Betfair is believed to have paid Pendleton a six- fi gure sum and they will be well pleased with their investment. But they will also be keeping their fi ngers well crossed – as we will – that no harm comes to rider or horse.

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