Ireland’s top amateur Barry O’Neill will team up with Rebecca Curtis at the Cheltenham Festival as he is due to ride Pats Fancy in the National Hunt Chase.
The seven-year-old was only behind the thrilling Bravemansgame in a rookie handicap at Newbury on Saturday, following two wins in similar races this season, including an 11-length triumph over Cheltenham winners Imperial Alcazar in December.
“We were thrilled with him,” said Curtis, whose charge is a 14-1 overall chance for next month’s big run.
“I don’t think you really could have asked for a better run – it was exactly what we wanted before Cheltenham.
“Obviously the conditions weren’t ideal as Newbury is more of a fast type track on good ground, but I think he traveled and jumped very well and saw his run well. That’s a plus. he has – he’s a brilliant jumper, he’s really good on a fence.
“He came out of the race fresh and healthy which is perfect, and I think he will be perfect for the National Hunt Chase. James (Bowen) thinks the further he goes the better he will be which bodes Good.”
Curtis has O’Neill in the lead to go around when the Festival rolls around, a rider who has become a leading figure on the amateur circuit in Ireland after riding over 600 point-to-point winners.
“I think Barry O’Neill will ride him at Cheltenham. I think it’s important in these amateur races to have a top jockey – that can be everything,” Curtis said.
“It’s great to have Barry on board – I’m delighted he can ride it.”
Curtis knows what it takes to win the National Hunt Chase after winning the race in 2012 with popular hunter Teaforthree, who overcame Harry The Viking to win by two lengths a decade ago in the hands of of the late JT McNamara.
The two bays share a sire as they are both offspring of Oscar, and Curtis notes that Pats Fancy has a lot in common with the horse that provided him with his first Cheltenham Festival victory.
“It was a few years ago, but it’s actually a similar guy to Teaforthree,” she said.
“They are from the same father and he really reminds me of that.”