Double Olympic champion Victoria Pendleton was denied a fairytale victory by a head on her first ride as a fully-fledged amateur jockey at Ripon on Monday.
Despite being a total novice in the saddle, the double Olympic gold medal-winning cyclist announced in March she was training to become a jockey, with the long-term aim of competing in the Foxhunter Chase at next year’s Cheltenham Festival.
Pendleton, 34, made her racecourse debut in a charity event at Newbury in early July, when down the field aboard Mighty Mambo, and having since been awarded her ‘Category A’ licence, she headed to North Yorkshire to partner the Lawney Hill-trained Royal Etiquette in the 13-runner Betfair Novice Flat Amateur Riders’ Handicap.
The 14-1 shot was slowly away, coming out of the stalls last of all, but swiftly made up ground down the outside of the field to track the pacesetting Chocolate Diamond.
The pair rounded the home turn well clear of the remainder and when Chocolate Diamond began to falter, Pendleton pushed Royal Etiquette to the front.
The chasing pack closed up in the final furlong, but Royal Etiquette refused to go down without a fight.
However, he was eventually just run out of it by 33-1 chance Jordaura.
Pendleton said: “I had to switch to plan B too quickly. I tried to keep a hold of him, because I was told that if he hit the front before the three-furlong marker he would hold his hands up as if he’d done enough.
“I was pushing with everything I had and lost my balance a bit on the undulations, which was frustrating, and I ended up just shouting at him to keep him going.
“I knew it was going to hurt, but I was just so happy. I was so proud of him, he exceeded all our expectations and he will get some Polos tonight!
“It’s given me confidence and I feel blessed to have been given this chance, I feel like a real jockey.
“I don’t know when the next race will be, but riding on the flat is allowing me to hone my skills. I am absolutely delighted to be placed and Ripon will always hold a special place in my heart.
“I genuinely didn’t think it was possible when this idea was mentioned, and if you had told me six months and six days ago, which was the first time I sat on a horse, that I would be here I wouldn’t have believed it. There have been so many challenges along the way and it’s amazing how much I have learned.
“It’s been a fantastic experience so far. I had an amazing cycling career, but riding a horse is so much fun. My family keep having to tell me to shut up I talk about it so much.”