All eyes will be on Fakenham this afternoon at 4.10pm as Victoria Pendleton rides Pacher De Bolder in a hunter chase at the Norfolk track. It'll be the Olympic cycling champion's first ride over jumps under rules and she'll partner the horse she's set to ride in the Foxhunter Chase at Cheltenham four weeks today.
Pendleton, or 'Pendo's' switch to horse racing has had a mixed reaction amongst fans, but you cannot argue that it will raise the profile of the sport. Ladbrokes opened with a frankly ridiculous price of 1/2 about her chances aboard Pacho Du Bolder on Thursday but it's since drifted out to around 4/6. The horse is clearly the best in the field on form but you'd need to be certified to be backing it at odds on with Pendleton onboard (in our opinion!).
Pendleton certainly has our best wishes however and the pair are best price 25/1 with Betfair to win the Foxhunters.
Pendleton's exploits as well as Lizzie Kelly's rise to prominence has led us to wonder what the chances are of a female jockey winning at Cheltenham this season.
Kelly claimed the headlines on Saturday when bagging her second high profile of the season aboard Agrapart in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury. Kelly's stock is well and truly rising following on from her win on Tea For Two in the Feltham (Kauto Star Novices' Chase) at Christmas, a first Grade 1 win for any female jockey in Britain.
Given quotes of 6/1 to get a winner at the Cheltenham Festival in four week's time, the price looks on the skinny side given the aforementioned Tea For Two looks set to give the Festival a swerve and Kelly will be looking to pick up some rides for her stepfather Nick Williams.
There's no doubting 22 year old's credentials however and a win at Cheltenham's showpiece will round off what has been a terrific season. The Newbury win was the 28th of her career, returning a +63 pts profit over hurdles!
Nina Carberry holds the best chance of a Cheltenham winner if she lines up aboard Josies Orders in the Cross Country. Currently a best price 5/2, Josies Orders has won twice at Cheltenham already this season with Carberry in the plate on both occasions. The eight year old trained by Enda Bolger looks a cracking price for a hat trick of wins at the track next month.
Carberry, who hails from a racing family (father Tommy and brother Paul) is no stranger to success at the Festival, winning the Fred Winter in 2005 aboard Dabiroun as well as picking up a hat-trick of wins in the Cross Country with Heads Onthe Ground in 2007 and Garde Champetre (2008, 2009). On The Fringe gave Carberry her fifth and most recent Festival winner last season in the Foxhunter.
If Carberry has racing in the blood, the same can be said of Katie Walsh. Daughter of Grand National winning trainer Ted (Papillon) and sister of Ruby, Walsh is in fact sister in law to Nina Carberry who is married to her brother Ted Jnr.
Walsh has ridden two winners at the Festival, both coming in 2010 when guiding Poker De Sivola and Thousand Stars to victory in the National Hunt Chase and County Hurdle respectively.
Walsh is likely to pick up some rides at Cheltenham, both in the amateur races as well as the big field handicaps where she'll have as good a chance as any.
No bookie has been brave enough to put up a market on whether there'll be a female winner at the Festival this year (at the time of writing). You'd think it would be a pretty short price should they do and we'll be keeping our eyes peeled.