Rebecca Curtis secures top Irish amateur for Pats Fancy in National Hunt Chase

Leading amateur Barry O'Neill has been booked for the ride on Pats Fancy at next month's Cheltenham Festival.Leading amateur Barry O'Neill has been booked for the ride on Pats Fancy at next month's Cheltenham Festival.

Barry O’Neill set to partner Pats Fancy in the National Hunt Chase

Pembrokeshire Trainer Rebecca Curtis has five Cheltenham Festival winners to her credit, the most recent being Lisnagar Oscar in the 2020 Stayers’ Hurdle. He started at 50-1 that day and she believes that the gelding could surprise a few people again next month. Curtis has also moved swiftly to book leading Irish Amateur rider Barry O’Neill to partner Pats Fancy in the National Hunt Chase. 

Pats Fancy looks good value at 16-1

Curtis enjoyed her first taste of Cheltenham Festival success with the grand staying chaser Teaforthree in the 2012 National Hunt Chase. Teaforthree was runner-up in the Welsh National and third in the Aintree Grand National the following season. She then trained the prolific winner At Fishers Cross to win the 2013 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, a well-backed favourite ridden by Tony McCoy. O’Faolains’s Boy won the 2014 RSA Chase and Irish Cavalier the 2015 Novices’ Handicap Chase before Lisnagar Oscar’s Stayer’s Hurdle victory.

She has earmarked her progressive novice Pats Fancy for that race after his excellent second to the highly-regarded Bravemansgame at Newbury last weekend. The late JT McNamara rode Teaforthree and Curtis knows how important it is to get the best possible jockey for the marathon amateur riders’ event.

Barry O’Neill has ridden over 600 point-to-point winners and looks a shrewd booking for the seven-year-old. Pats Fancy got off the mark over fences off a mark of 125 but was rated 18lbs higher when runner-up at Newbury. The handicapper had put him up 10lbs for his first Chepstow victory and a further 8lbs after he beat Imperial Alcazar by 11 lengths.

Imperial Alcazar then went to Cheltenham and won impressively so the form looks rock solid. Curtis did not expect Pats Fancy to beat Bravemansgame around Newbury and feels that he is the ideal type for the three and three-quarter miles at Cheltenham. He finished ahead of Grumpy Charley who had won his previous race at Newbury while Bravemansgame now heads to the Festival Novices’ Chase.

Lisnagar Oscar delights Curtis with Cleeve Hurdle run

Lisnagar Oscar stunned the Cheltenham crowd when defeating Ronald Pump and Bacardys in the 2020 Stayers’ Hurdle. Paisley Park started odds-on favourite after beating Lisnagar Oscar in the Cleeve Hurdle but the form was comprehensively turned upside down at the Festival.

Two years’ on and nine races later, Lisnagar Oscar is the forgotten horse of the Stayers’ Hurdle field and is on offer at 40-1 (NRNB) with William Hill. Curtis sees the race very differently and felt his run in this year’s Cleeve Hurdle compares very favourably with his effort in the corresponding race in 2020. 

Adam Wedge was forced to make the running with only four opponents and this was not ideal. Lisnagar Oscar is not a natural front-runner and he was a spent force between the last two flights. Paisley Park ran a strange race, missing the break and hitting his usual flat spot running down the hill before surging up the home straight. Most pundits would pick both Paisley Park and Champ to finish ahead of the Curtis horse again at the Festival but the trainer remains optimistic.

The horse had hinted at a return to form last season and was travelling nicely last year when taking a crashing fall at the seventh. That fall may have dented his confidence as he has taken a long time to recapture his sparkle.