Oxfordshire trainer Lawney Hill is optimistic Victoria Pendleton can take another step in the right direction when she is reunited with Royal Etiquette at Beverley on Tuesday.
The Olympic cycling champion finished a close second aboard the Hill-trained eight-year-old at Ripon last month and has her second competitive ride as a jockey in the Betfair Supports Amateur Riders’ Handicap (5.30).
Hill has worked closely with Pendleton since the 34-year-old took up the challenge put forward by Betfair to become a jockey, with a long-term goal to compete in the Foxhunter Chase for amateur riders at the 2016 Cheltenham Festival. She said: "I think it's the most incredible challenge that Victoria is undertaking and I will never get tired talking about it. Victoria is definitely improving all the time and is gaining strength and condition in how she handles riding horses. Because she has improved so rapidly, some people are expecting such a lot so soon, but it's still early in her development. I've never been to Beverley before but we are going there because we think it's a suitable race for Victoria and Royal Etiquette. This will also be a different test for Victoria as, instead of novice amateurs, she will be up against fully-fledged amateurs with strong experience. It's just such an amazing thing what Victoria is doing and I'm very proud she's part of our team and enjoying it so much."
Royal Etiquette, owned by Hill's husband, Alan, will be stepping up to a mile and a half at Beverley in the 17-runner heat, in which Pendleton's companion breaks from stall 14. Lawney Hill said: "Royal Etiquette has had his usual canter on the grass, but we don't over-gallop him - he doesn't like doing too much as he's such an easy-going horse. We always felt he was best on good to firm ground, but he's won before when there is plenty of cut in the ground so he is quite versatile in that respect. He'll be happier over a mile and a half, too, as we felt the Ripon race over one mile and three (furlongs) might have been a little too short for him anyway. He'll also be happier drawn wide as he doesn't like to be boxed in. We hope, and think, that they will both have a very good run again."
Victoria Pendleton's ‘Switching Saddles’ adventure is in partnership with online bookmakers Betfair, who have provided her with a team of specialists including Team GB eventing performance manager Yogi Breisner. Pendleton had her first raceday experience in the George Frewer Charity Race at Newbury on July 2, when she finished eighth aboard the Hill-trained Mighty Mambo.
Britain’s most successful female Olympian then gained clearance to ride competitively at Ripon after she was awarded a Category A amateur riders’ licence on August 26 following a two-day assessment at the British Racing School in Newmarket.
Beverley chief executive Sally Iggulden said: “There is a real buzz around this race, and the people of East Yorkshire are really excited to see Victoria in action on a turf track for a change. Whilst the race is hugely competitive, I’m sure all of the other riders will be happy to give Victoria a few pointers on how to ride the famous bend and uphill finish at Beverley."
Beverley’s eight-race fixture on Tuesday is due to begin at 2pm. The feature race on the card is the five-furlong British Stallion Studs Eddie And Violet Smith EBF Conditions Stakes (3.00), claimed last year by Group One-winning sprinter Kingsgate Native. Totescoop6 Beverley Bullet runner-up Line Of Reason is the star name in a strong seven-runner field for the £14,000 prize. The official going on Monday morning was described as good, good to firm in places.