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Cheltenham Festival: The stats

With the annual Festival kicking off on the 15 March, we've been taking a look at why the event just seems to get bigger every year.

Horses and Jockeys during a morning warm up at Cheltenham Racecourse. Credit: Andrew Matthews / PA

THE STATS

25,000+
amount of people on a normal race day
65,000
people expected this Friday on Gold Cup day
£150m
will be bet during the four day festival
£4m
worth of prize money on offer
800
journalists covering the event, goes to show just how much interest there is

Pendleton will ride at Cheltenham Festival

Victoria Pendleton will ride Pacha Du Polder at the Cheltenham Festival next Friday.

The dual Olympic cycling champion will partner Pacha Du Polder in the St James's Place Foxhunter Chase on Friday week.

Victoria Pendleton will be on Pacha Du Polder. Credit: PA

We have always had the extremely ambitious target of riding competitively in the Foxhunter as our goal, so to be announcing that I have achieved this goal is a truly amazing feeling.

– Victoria Pendleton

Pacha Du Polder's trainer Paul Nicholls and a team of experts made the decision to allow the 35-year-old the chance to fulfil her dream of appearing at next week's Festival.

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Victoria Pendleton on course for Cheltenham Festival after Wincanton win

Victoria Pendleton rode Pacha Du Polder Credit: Racing UK

Victoria Pendleton won her first race as an amateur jockey at Wincanton.

The former Olympic cyclist only took up the sport a year ago, but road 5-4 favourite Pacha Du Polder to victory with a winning margin of 29 lengths.

She says she was determined to give the horse the race he deserved.

It was fantastic. I really just wanted a good round. I wanted to get round on the horse and give him a ride he deserved because he’s Pacha Du Polder and he is a lovely horse.

I feel very honoured and lucky to be allowed to ride such a wonderful animal.

– Victoria Pendleton

An announcement about her participation at Cheltenham is expected on Monday.

Horse-racing hero Kauto Star is put down

Former steeplechaser Kauto Star with his dressage rider Laura Collett (right) Credit: PA

Former steeplechasing champion Kauto Star has had to be put down. He sustained a complex fracture to the left side of his pelvis as the result of a fall.

Kauto Star was trained by Paul Nicholls at his stables in Ditcheat in Somerset. He twice won the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the King George VI Chase no less than five times.

When he retired, he began a new career in dressage, with European medallist Laura Collett as his guide.

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Scientists overturn idea racehorses can't get any faster

Racehorses are reaching faster and faster speeds, scientists have found, overturning research which suggested they had reached their galloping limit.

A team from the University of Exeter studied a total of 616,084 races run by more than 70,000 horses, with a broader focus on sprint races.

Racehorses are reaching ever-faster speeds, the study found Credit: PA

Previous research, which suggested speeds had reached a plateau, had largely concentrated on a small number of middle- to long-distance races.

It is not yet known whether the faster pace is down to breeding, better training, better jockeys, or a combination of these.

Researcher Dr Patrick Sharman said:

There has been a general consensus over the last 30 years that horse speeds appeared to be stagnating.

Our study shows that this is not the case and, by using a much larger dataset than previously analysed, we have revealed that horses have been getting faster. Interestingly, both the historical and current rate of improvement is greatest over sprint distances.

The challenge now is to find out whether this pattern of improvement has a genetic basis.

– Dr Patrick Sharman, University of Exeter

Amateur jockey airlifted to hospital

Amateur jockey Tom Weston has been airlifted to Southmead Hospital after his horse fell at Cheltenham Credit: PA

Experienced amateur jockey Tom Weston has been airlifted to Southmead Hospital with injuries after his horse, Benbane Head, fell at the 14th fence in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase.

He was attended on the course by doctors and medical personnel and then taken to Cheltenham Racecourse's medical centre before being airlifted to hospital - he was breathing and conscious at the time.

Benbane Head ridden by Matt O'Connor going to post for the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase during Cheltenham Festival 2012 Credit: PA

Tribute to AP McCoy at Newton Abbot Racecourse

Newton Abbot Racecourse has commissioned a bronze sculpture of jockey AP McCoy to recognise his achievements and contribution to the sport.

The sculpture will be unveiled before the start of the first race today and will go on show in the weighing room at the racecourse.

AP McCoy OBE Credit: Press Association Images

"McCoy provides such excitement at every fixture he attends here at Newton Abbot and we know it's the same at racecourses across the country. He's become synonymous with horseracing and is an example of the determination to succeed in the sport.

We're thrilled to be able to unveil this at our final fixture and recognise McCoy's achievements."

– Patrick Masterson, Managing Director at Newton Abbot Racecourse

The bronze sculpture was created by William Newton, a sculptor based in Wincanton. The unveiling will mark the end of the 2014 racing season at Newton Abbot Racecourse.

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