Top Irish 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 behind only the exciting Bravemansgame in a novice handicap at Newbury on Saturday, following two victories in similar races this season, including an 11-length triumph over subsequent Cheltenham winner Imperial Alcazar in December.
“We were delighted with him,” said Curtis, whose charge is a general 14-1 chance for the big race next month.
“I don’t think you could have asked for a better run really – it was exactly what we wanted before Cheltenham.
“Obviously conditions weren’t ideal as Newbury is more of a speedy-type track on good ground, but I thought he travelled and jumped really well and saw his race out well. That’s one asset that he has – he’s a brilliant jumper, he’s really good over a fence.
“He’s come out of the race fresh and well, which is perfect, and I think he’ll be perfect for the National Hunt Chase. James (Bowen) thinks the further he goes the better he’ll be, which bodes well.”
Curtis has O’Neill in mind to take the ride when the Festival comes around, a rider who has become a leading figure on the amateur circuit in Ireland having ridden over 600 point-to-point winners.
“I think Barry O’Neill is going to ride him at Cheltenham. I think it’s important in those amateur races you get a top jockey – it can be everything,” Curtis said.
“It’s brilliant to have Barry on board – I’m delighted he can ride him.”
Curtis knows what it takes to win the National Hunt Chase having enjoyed a 2012 success in the race with the popular staying chaser Teaforthree, who defeated Harry The Viking to prevail by two lengths a decade ago in the hands of the late JT McNamara.
The two bays share a sire as they are both the progeny of Oscar, and Curtis notes that Pats Fancy has a lot in common with the horse that supplied her first Cheltenham Festival victory.
“It was a few years ago, but he’s actually a similar type to Teaforthree,” she said.
“They are by the same sire and he really does remind me of him.”