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Cheltenham Festival Q&A: Denis O’Regan

Grade One-winning pilot at the Cheltenham Festival, Denis O’Regan returns to Prestbury Park on Tuesday and discusses what the four biggest days in the calendar mean to him

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Denis O'Regan on Inglis Drever celebrates winning the 3.30pm Ladbrokes World Hurdle Race

It’s nearly time, folks.

The Cheltenham Festival is only one day away and festival winning rider Denis O’Regan joins the conversation on cheltenham.co.uk.

Chasing a first success at Prestbury Park since 2017, O’Regan features in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle on Tuesday’s card aboard the Noel Meade trained Curious Bride.

The Irish pilot will be hoping to rekindle the Festival magic that saw him land victories on Inglis Drever and Tidal Bay 13 years ago.

Denis O’Regan, Jockey of Inglis Drever, celebrates after winning the World (now Stayers) Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival

And he discusses what the National Hunt event in Gloucestershire means to him ahead of day one tomorrow.

What makes the Cheltenham Festival so special?

It’s top-class racing from the beginning of the week to the end, every year the atmosphere is electric and there is no better feeling than coming back up the chute after riding a winner there.

A very different Cheltenham Festival in store, with the stands to remain empty as a result of the ongoing covid-19 pandemic
You landed 2 Grade 1’s at the 2008 Festival aboard Inglis Drever and Tidal Bay; is it fair to say that was your best week as a National Hunt jockey?

It was an unbelievable week and I was very fortunate that in my first season in the UK with a great job to be able to deliver when the pressure was on. To be part of Cheltenham history with Inglis Drever is something that I will never forget and they say you never forget your first, so Tidal Bay will always have a special place in my heart. I am very proud though to have ridden a Cheltenham winner for Malcolm Jefferson and Barry Connell also.

Dreal Deal won the Moscow Flyer earlier this season. Is he expected to head to Prestbury Park, and if not, where will we see him running next?

I think that Ronan said last week that he isn’t 100% happy with the horse and faces a race against time for this year. Ive no doubt though that he will still be a force in years to come. Ronan is doing a great job with him and there’s not many horses who have climbed the ladder like him by winning six in a row. Hopefully over the Spring, we can make it seven.

dreal deal won the moscow flyer but is set to miss the festival [racing tv]
Which race would you most like to win at Cheltenham and why?

The Gold Cup, it’s the ultimate test of a horse and every jockey who applies for a license dream of the Friday in Cheltenham.

You’re currently on course for your best season in the saddle since 2008; what has been the secret to your success this campaign?

I think there are a number of factors that have contributed to this. I have been fortunate to ride a number of winners annually for Cullentra Stables and this year has been no different. A major change this season is that I have ridden winners for fifteen different trainers and a lot of that is down to my new agent Gary Cribbin. Gary does a great job and is constantly looking to open new doors. I’m very fortunate to be getting the support of so many people and I hope I can keep repaying that support.

If you could pick to ride any horse at the Festival next week, who would it be?

Quixillios, I won on him on his debut and he gave me a great feel that day. I think wherever he lines up, he will be hard to beat.

The top trainer and jockey will be…

Willie Mullins is likely to be top trainer and Paul Townend will be top jockey.

A confident vote from O’Regan for Paul Townend, who bids for a third successive Gold Cup victory with Al Boum Photo this Friday
Honeysuckle or Epatante; who’s the most likely winner of the Champion Hurdle?

Honeysuckle looks to be improving from run to run and you would have to stay onside with her until that ends.

Honeysuckle
A titanic Champion Hurdle in-store with Honeysuckle bidding to steal the crown from fellow mare Epatante
How do you enjoy time away from the sport in your own time?

Family is hugely important to me and I love spending time with my wife Louise and son Thomas. I love cycling and walking our dog in the countryside. In the current environment, I don’t get to visit my parents or Louise’s family as much as we would like but when things improve, you can’t beat a few days of farming. I have some great friends also that I thankfully get to talk too on a regular basis.

In just one word, what does the Cheltenham Festival mean to you?

More, I’ve been at the Cheltenham Festival for fifteen years continuously and I want to be riding at more festivals and ride more winners there.

Dominic Chapman is senior content writer at Low6 with a passion for horse racing. He provides a NAP and NB every day throughout the week on selected National Hunt and Flat cards in both Britain and Ireland. Additionally, he hosts the Paddock Picks Podcast with former Welsh Grand National-winning pilot, Charlie Poste - the pair interviewing and discussing current racing topics with a special guest every week.

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