Festival Glory Boost to Flourishing Career of Rebecca Curtis
Trainer Rebecca Curtis goes into Cheltenham Festival 2013 hoping to build on her breakthrough success at last year's event with At Fishers Cross, the current favourite for the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle.
Curtis began training at her father's dairy farm on the Pembrokeshire coast in 2008 after spending two years with Peter Bowen and five years in the US with Richard Mandella and Dan Hendricks.
She started with only five horses and sent out her first winner at Chepstow in April, 2008, but the progress of her operation in the past five seasons, with help from her partner Gearoid Costelloe, has enabled her to assemble a team of over 40 exciting National Hunt prospects.
Six of them are owned by J P McManus, who is the leading current owner by far at The Festival with 37 successes.
Last season, the Welsh handler saddled 39 winners and enjoyed her first success at The Festival when Teaforthree made most of the running to land the Diamond Jubilee National Hunt Chase.
Reflecting on the success, Curtis said: "It feels amazing to be a Cheltenham Festival-winning trainer. It takes a while to sink in and, with all the cheers from the crowd as you come back into the winner's enclosure, it is quite overwhelming.
"We were lucky to get one so early in my career and it has really given the yard a boost. We have a got a great bunch of staff, who all work really hard, and it's great to win at The Festival as we are only a small yard."
Teaforthree, a son of leading Jump sire Oscar, was sent off the 5/1 favourite for the Diamond Jubilee National Hunt Chase over four miles on the back of an easy nine-length victory at Chepstow. The market support was justified as he stayed on gamely up the Cheltenham hill under top amateur pilot J T McNamara to record a two-length verdict over the Paul Nicholls-trained Harry The Viking.
"We were lucky enough to have the ideal horse for the ideal race and it all worked out well," continued Curtis. "There is a bit more pressure when you're preparing a favourite for a race at Cheltenham because expectations are a lot higher but all you can do it keep them fit and well, and hope for a bit of luck on the day."
Curtis has built up a tremendous partnership with A P McCoy, who has a 32% strike rate for the Welsh handler in the past five seasons, and it was the 17-time champion jockey who advised Curtis to run Teaforthree in the Diamond Jubilee National Hunt Chase.
"We always thought Teaforthree would be well suited by the Diamond Jubilee National Hunt Chase," admitted Curtis. "After A P rode him at Chepstow he said this is the race we should go for because he stays and jumps so well."
Curtis and McCoy will team up for more Cheltenham honours with At Fishers Cross, who is the 4/1 market leader with some bookmakers for the Grade One Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle over three miles on Gold Cup Day, Friday, March 15.
The six-year-old, owned by J P McManus, is four from four over hurdles this season and took the scalps of the previously unbeaten hurdlers The New One and Coneygree in the Grade Two Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham on Festival Trials Day, January 26.
"At Fishers Cross is in great form and he came out of his win at Cheltenham really well," revealed Curtis. "He won over two and a half miles last time but he won over three miles at Cheltenham in December and the step back up in trip should really suit him.
"We will be going to Cheltenham full of hope with him as his form is as good as anything else's in the race. We just hope it doesn't come up too quick there in March but, with the weather the way it is at the moment, it could be soft ground."