Tag Archive for: Patrick Neville

No nerves for Neville as The Real Whacker gets ready to return

The Real Whacker will have the weight of history on his shoulders in Saturday’s Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham, but his trainer Patrick Neville is unconcerned.

It is two years since the Irish handler made the move from his home in County Limerick to set up at Ann Duffield’s Sun Hill Farm in the Yorkshire Dales, a switch which coincided with the unearthing of a horse that would take his career to new heights.

The Real Whacker was a €21,000 purchase by Neville as an unraced three-year-old in 2019 – and but for the Coronavirus pandemic, there is every chance he would now be in different hands.

“I took a chance on him as I bought him myself a store horse and I had him a year and a half before he was ready to run in a point-to-point. The plan was to run him in a point-to-point and sell him,” Neville explained.

“I knew he was a good horse, we had him ready to run in a point-to-point as a four-year-old and then Covid struck and that was it.

“We said that was our chance gone then as he was a five-year-old, so said we’d keep him and give him a run on the track.”

The Real Whacker finished sixth of 18 as a 150-1 shot on his racecourse debut in a Listowel maiden hurdle in the autumn of 2021, after which he was packed up to make the move across the Irish Sea.

The Real Whacker in his stable
The Real Whacker in his stable (Ashley Iveson/PA)

It did not take him long to make an impact on British soil, bolting up at Carlisle in Duffield’s name, as Neville – who currently trains a string of around 20 horses and rides his stable star every day – worked on getting set up in the UK in his own name.

He said: “When we ran him in Listowel the ground was a bit too good and he was a couple of weeks off being really ready. He had an educational run and he ran very well.

“It was a good race he won in Carlisle and we then took him to the Grade Two in Doncaster (River Don Novices’ Hurdle), where he was a bit unlucky because there was a woeful head wind that day, he got pulled across the track in the straight and lost a lot of ground. He was still a bit green at that stage as well as it was only his third run, so it was a good run to finish second (to Mahler Mission).

“He was to run in the Albert Bartlett then, but he got a knock so we didn’t run him and he was left off then for the season. He came back and had run over hurdles at Cheltenham in October on ground that was a bit quick for him and we decided after that we’d go straight over fences.”

While the son of Mahler was clearly a high-class operator over the smaller obstacles, it is since being switched the larger obstacles that he has really excelled – winning each of his three starts to date, all at Cheltenham, including the narrowest of Festival triumphs over leading Gold Cup contender Gerri Colombe in the Brown Advisory in March.

“I always thought he was going to be a proper chaser. His run in Doncaster showed me that he was a real good horse and the day he won in Carlisle, the way he pulled away from good horses over three-mile-one, he just galloped away from them,” said Neville.

“Going to Cheltenham in March, I wasn’t even thinking of any other horse in the race, only our own horse – that’s the way I think every day.

“You could be sizing up everything else and thinking about different tactics and all that, but I just like to think of our own horse and what we’re going to do.

“Gerri Colombe is a good horse, he’s proved it every time he’s run. I’m still listening to people saying ‘if there was another stride’ he’d have won, but life is full of ifs and buts, isn’t it?

“If they both run in the Gold Cup and he annihilates us, well isn’t it good to be there taking him on and having a go?

“I had a great craic with the owner of Gerri Colombe (Brian Acheson) in Aintree earlier in the year. He’s a good sport and if we finish second to him in the Gold Cup we wouldn’t mind!”

Patrick Neville (right) with The Real Whacker at Cheltenham
Patrick Neville (right) with The Real Whacker at Cheltenham (David Davies/The Jockey Club)

Having sidestepped a small-field engagement at Carlisle a couple of weeks ago, The Real Whacker will instead make his comeback on familiar territory in one of the season’s most prestigious handicaps with 12st on his back.

Al Ferof 11 years ago was the last horse to carry top-weight to victory in the Paddy Power Gold Cup, while you have to go back to Dublin Flyer in 1995 to find the last winner rated in the 160s.

Neville, though, is not one for worrying about statistics, instead focussing on getting his pride and joy to Prestbury Park in the best possible shape for what he views as a starting point rather than the end goal for the season.

He said: “I don’t get too nervous about these things. All we can do is look after him and get him there healthy and well and fit and as good as we can.

“I don’t take much notice of all this carry on with people saying ‘if he doesn’t win on Saturday, he’s not this or he’s not that’. It’s only the start of the season for us.

“He’s come back a bit stronger, so we’d be hoping he’d improve. He’s only ran seven times, so he’s still a very lightly-raced horse for his age.

“We gave him that time and gave him time between races because he’s such a lightly-framed horse and he tries so hard. Even in his work and his cantering he puts everything in, so I think if you ran him too often you’d end up with a very light horse.

“He’s fit and ready for his run and whatever happens on Saturday, and I’d be expecting a big run, he’ll definitely improve.

“You can’t be confident in a race like that, but we’re going there hoping he’ll run very well.”

While looking forward to this weekend’s assignment and another stop or two along the way, in Neville’s mind there is one day that matters above all else and it arrives in four months’ time.

He added: “We’re working back from the Gold Cup and after Saturday we’d be looking forward to Christmas and going for the King George. There’s no reason why not, there isn’t a whole pile else.

“The Cotswold Chase at the end of January might be nearly too near the Festival, so if he ran at Christmas we might just leave him then, but we’ll see.

“Obviously there’s a lot of water to flow under the bridge between now and March and there’ll be a lot of talk about different horses and there’s always a new kid on the block coming.

“There’s a lot of good horses around at the moment, but we have something to dream of anyway, which is what it’s all about.”

The Real Whacker going for Paddy Power gold

The Real Whacker will make his seasonal reappearance in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham in a fortnight’s time, after connections opted against Sunday’s Colin Parker Memorial Intermediate Chase at Carlisle.

The seven-year-old enjoyed a tremendous novice campaign over fences last season for North Yorkshire-based Irishman Patrick Neville, winning each of his three starts at Cheltenham including a narrow victory over Gerri Colombe in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase at the Festival in March.

This weekend’s Listed event in Cumbria appeared an ideal starting point on the road to a tilt at the Cheltenham Gold Cup in the spring – but with testing conditions forecast, he will instead carry top-weight of 12st in one of the season’s first major handicaps at Prestbury Park on November 18.

The Real Whacker and jockey Sam Twiston-Davies return to the Cheltenham winner's enclosure
The Real Whacker and jockey Sam Twiston-Davies return to the Cheltenham winner’s enclosure (David Davies/The Jockey Club)

Neville said: “I’m not going to go to Carlisle as the ground is too heavy at the moment. It’s his first run back, so we said we’d wait for Cheltenham and go for the Paddy Power.

“Hopefully the ground will be a lot better at Cheltenham and we know he likes the track. He’ll have top-weight, but it’ll be his first run back and a starting point for the year.

“He’s in great shape, I couldn’t be happier with him. Sam (Twiston-Davies) came up to Middleham during the week and sat on him for the first time since Cheltenham in March and he was very happy.

“Carlisle would have been a lovely starting point, but on heavy ground around there we just decided we didn’t want to do that to him first time out.”

Neville has much to look forward to with The Real Whacker

Patrick Neville is considering options at Down Royal and Newbury for stable star The Real Whacker’s seasonal reappearance.

The seven-year-old enjoyed an excellent novice campaign over fences last term, winning each of his three starts at Cheltenham including a popular Festival success in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase.

North Yorkshire-based Neville is confident his pride and joy has returned from a summer break better than ever and is looking forward to seeing him return to competitive action in the autumn.

“He’s done really well over the summer. He came back in around mid-July and he’s back cantering away now and is in great form,” he said.

The Real Whacker and Sam Twiston-Davies will be reunited this season
The Real Whacker and Sam Twiston-Davies will be reunited this season (David Davies for The Jockey Club)

“He looks well and has developed into a nice horse over the summer. He’s only really a horse now to be honest. He was always lightly-framed but he’s filled into his frame now and is looking fierce well.

“I’ve had Sam Twiston-Davies ringing me up to see how he is and he is looking forward to riding him for the season, all going well.”

Neville is planning to give The Real Whacker just two runs before a return to the Cotswolds in March for a tilt at Cheltenham Gold Cup glory.

He added: “There’s Coral Gold Cup at Newbury (December 2) or Down Royal on early November is another option. There’s a second-season novice chase there that we’ll have a look at.

“You’ve got the King George at Christmas and Cheltenham in January, so we’ll see. We’d be thinking two runs and then the Gold Cup – that’s the plan.”

The Real Whacker hangs on in Brown Advisory thriller

The Real Whacker made every yard to give Patrick Neville a fairytale victory in a thrilling edition of the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham.

A winner at the Prestbury Park track on both of his previous outings this term, including the ‘Dipper’ over shorter on New Year’s Day, he was bounced out by Sam Twiston-Davies to take up his customary position at the head of affairs.

The Real Whacker (8-1) produced a clinical round of jumping on the front end, with the Daryl Jacob-ridden Bronn hot on his tail throughout.

Despite Galia Des Liteaux, 5-4 favourite Gerri Colombe and the heavily-backed Sir Gerhard all edging their way into contention when the race began to develop, as the runners turned for home at the bottom of the famous hill it was The Real Whacker and Bronn that were still disputing matters.

Bronn was beaten off after the last, but the drama did not end there as Jordan Gainford conjured up extra from the fast-finishing Gerri Colombe who was staying on strongly as The Real Whacker’s stride began to shorten.

But the line came just in time to give Neville his first winner at the Festival and the inspired Twiston-Davies his first since 2016.

“It was a fantastic race, it’s always a privilege to be asked to ride in these races,” said the delighted winning rider.

“I was lucky to ride him in the Dipper, let alone today as well. Paddy Neville, all the way through, has been a great supporter. He said he was in wicked good nick and fair play, he was absolutely spot on.

“He races in a great manner – although he’s in front and he’s doing a lot of the hard work you’re able to get the breathers in everywhere you want. With his jumping he’s always filling himself up, my God it feels like a long way up the run-in!”

Winning connections of The Real Whacker
Winning connections of The Real Whacker (Mike Egerton/PA)

The Real Whacker had also been under consideration for Friday’s Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup before connections opted to stick to novice company.

Part-owner Davey Mann said: “I thought he was beaten, honestly – I genuinely thought we’d been caught on the line.

“He was there, he jumped well and came up the hill and did everything right. I thought we were beaten, but he stuck his old head out and fair play to him.

“We had him in the Gold Cup and the decision was Paddy’s. He kept it open for a while, but we always thought it would be the Brown Advisory and I think it was the right call.

“Who can say in the last six months that they’ve had three winners in Cheltenham? We had the November meeting, we had New Year’s Day and now we’ve pulled off the Brown Advisory.”

Cheltenham Festival 2023 – Festival Wednesday – Cheltenham Racecourse
David Mann in his red suit (Mike Egerton/PA)

Ahead of The Real Whacker’s New Year’s Day triumph, County Limerick nightclub owner Mann pulled an all-nighter before travelling to Cheltenham and was sporting the same red suit and sunglasses combination for his return to the Cotswolds.

He added: “I bought this suit in Chicago a year ago and I kept it for the first time we were here in Cheltenham.

“Paddy said to me after New Year’s Day ‘keep that suit for March’. I got home, gave it to my girls and said ‘take it to cleaners, leave the plastic on it and leave it for March’!”

The Real Whacker on his way to victory
The Real Whacker on his way to victory (Mike Egerton/PA)

Neville, who is based in Leyburn, said: “It was a long run to the line, but he toughed it out and he’s a lovely horse.

“The ground was a bit soft for him and we were dreading that, but he jumped well and it worked out.

“I was happy with the rhythm he was in and Sam kept him out for the better ground. We made that plan earlier on today and it worked.

“He’s won three times now here – I don’t think I’ll run him anywhere else!

“I trained in Ireland for 15 years and had a couple of good winners, but the last couple of years were tough as I just couldn’t get the owners. Hopefully it will work out better over here.”

Considering future plans, the trainer added: “If we can keep him one piece, we’ll come back here next year for the Gold Cup.

“I was toying with the Gold Cup this year, but we probably made the right decision for the horse because he’d only run six times before today.

“We’ll see how he comes out of this. We might put him away for the summer or we might go to Punchestown and we might go to Listowel in the autumn as it’s one of my favourite tracks.”

Gerri Colombe could not reel in The Real Whacker
Gerri Colombe could not reel in The Real Whacker (Steven Paston/PA)

Gordon Elliott admitted his disappointment in defeat, but retains plenty of faith in the narrow runner-up.

He said: “We’re disappointed, you always want to win but you can’t take anything away from the winner, he jumped out and went along in front the whole way.

“They were probably playing cat and mouse and then looked up and the winner had gone but there’s no taking away from him, the best horse on the day won and there was no excuse.

“Jordan is a bit disappointed but he gave him a great ride. He’s only young and he’s going to have loads of days. We won’t lose faith in Gerri yet.

“He hit the second last on the first circuit and got a bit close to that but apart form that he wasn’t too bad. I’m disappointed but that’s the game we’re in.

“He’s been beaten a short head in a Grade One and a stride after the line he was up by a neck.

“I’d say it’s very difficult for the jockeys with the whip rules, it will be playing on their minds.”

Neville favouring Festival novice option for The Real Whacker

Patrick Neville will leave the Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup door open, yet admitted he is leaning towards running The Real Whacker in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase at next week’s Festival meeting.

The promising seven-year-old has won both his starts over fences and crucially both victories have come at Cheltenham this term.

In November, he won a five-runner novices’ chase over an extended three miles when partnered by Gavin Sheehan and, on New Year’s Day, followed up in the Grade Two Dipper over an extended two and a half miles, this time ridden by Sam Twiston-Davies.

The Real Whacker took the scalp of Grade One winner Monmiral in the latter race and is now a general 9-2 third favourite for the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase on Wednesday.

However, Neville has not ruled out a tilt at Friday’s Gold Cup, for which he is a 50-1 shot.

The Irishman, who trains at Leyburn in North Yorkshire, said: “The horse is in super form – we couldn’t be happier with him.

“We are, at the moment, probably going to the Brown Advisory, but we will make a decision at the weekend, as there is another stage for the Gold Cup on Saturday.

“We’re just hanging in there. It is tempting, but we will wait and see. I think there will be a few who will come out of it because of the ground.”

Neville spent almost two years as assistant trainer to Ann Duffield and was a key player in N’Golo’s Swinton Hurdle success last May.

The trainer has had seven winners from 39 runners in his own name since taking out his licence in November and is eager to get back to Prestbury Park.

“It was great to take on the big boys and beat them there,” added Neville.

“It is great to have a horse like that going there. He stays well and he’s not short of speed either. His jumping is unbelievable.

“Everything has gone great since his last run. He is lightly raced and physically he has improved a bit, even from his New Year’s Day run – he’s getting stronger.

“He will probably go for the novice chase this year and then hopefully, if we get back next year, we will have a go at the Gold Cup, as then he would have more experience under his belt.

“We are leaning that way, but we’ll keep it open for another few days and dream away.”

Neville enjoys memorable day with Catterick treble

Four weeks out from saddling The Real Whacker in pursuit of Cheltenham Festival glory, trainer Patrick Neville enjoyed a memorable afternoon by landing a treble in the first three races at Catterick.

The Real Whacker is the star of a team of around 20 horses Neville trains out of Ann Duffield’s yard in North Yorkshire, having made the move from Ireland in 2021.

The seven-year-old has already won twice at Cheltenham this season, having followed up a successful chasing debut at Cheltenham in November with an impressive front-running display in the Dipper on New Year’s Day, and connections are still considering whether to run in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase at the Festival or have an ambitious tilt at the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Neville provided a positive update on his stable star’s well being after his Catterick hat-trick, saying: “The Real Whacker is in super form at the moment, I couldn’t be happier with him.

“We’re still in the Gold Cup and we’re still in the novice and we’ll just wait another few weeks and see where we are. It’ll depend on the weather and ground and things like that.

“There’ll be a few horses dropping out in the next few weeks, as we’ve seen with Allaho today missing the Ryanair.”

The Real Whacker was Neville’s only previous winner this season, but Fiston Du Mou put that right in Catterick’s curtain-raising Jumping For Joy On Racing TV Novices’ Handicap Chase.

Ridden by Gavin Sheehan, the 15-8 chance made every yard of the running and had enough in the tank at the finish to see off Creative Control by three-quarters of a length.

Neville saddled two of the three runners in the Meetings That Matter On Racing TV Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle and it was 9-1 shot Not Staying Long who emerged victorious under Brian Hughes, with her better-fancied stablemate Beauty To Behold last of the trio.

An excellent day’s work was completed in the racingtv.com Handicap Hurdle, with the Hughes-ridden Kavanaghs Cross leading home a one-two for Neville as Glentruan was a half-length runner-up.

“I had a double in Ireland, but I’ve never had a treble before, so we’ll take it. The horses are in good form and I’m delighted with the way they all ran,” the trainer added.

“The first race was a tricky enough race with only two runners and we had to make the running and do it the hard way, then in the mares’ race I was hoping there’d more runners to give Beauty To Behold some cover, but she ran very keen.

“The other mare did it well though and I’m happy enough with both of them. Hopefully we can keep them all in good form.”

Brown Advisory looks ‘most logical’ target for The Real Whacker

Patrick Neville is planning to head straight to the Cheltenham Festival with his exciting novice chaser The Real Whacker.

Placed in Grade Two company as a novice hurdler last season, the seven-year-old made a successful chasing debut at Cheltenham in November before producing a spring-heeled display to land the Dipper Novices’ Chase on his return to Prestbury Park on New Year’s Day.

The Real Whacker has been given an ambitious entry in the Cheltenham Gold Cup but looks set to stick to novice company, with a step back up in trip for the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase the likely target.

Neville said: “He came out of the race on New Year’s Day very good, I’m very happy with him. He stepped up a good bit and I was delighted with him.

“I think he’ll go straight to the Festival now – we’re not that far away. Probably the most logical will be the Brown Advisory. I gave him an entry in the Gold Cup, but we’ll probably go for the three-mile novice.

“His jumping is very good and his last run was only his sixth run. He hasn’t much mileage on the clock and if he keeps progressing, I’ll be happy.”

The Real Whacker is the star of a team of around 20 horses Neville trains out of Ann Duffield’s yard in North Yorkshire, having made the move from Ireland in 2021.

Neville was due to take up residence at a yard of his own yard in nearby Middleham, but ended up setting up alongside Duffield on the outskirts of Leyburn and it has proved a fruitful relationship.

“I came over a year ago last November. I came to take a yard and when that fell through I ended up going to Ann Duffield and I’m delighted it’s working out,” the trainer added.

The Real Whacker was a winner at Cheltenham in November
The Real Whacker was a winner at Cheltenham in November (David Davies/Jockey Club)

“I thought it would be easy transferring the Irish licence over but it wasn’t – it took nine or 10 months. Initially we were running the National Hunt horses under Ann’s name and since we came over we’ve had about 17 winners.

“N’Golo was a Grade Three winner and ‘Whacker’ was second in the Grade Two hurdle last year.”

Reflecting on his decision to move across the Irish Sea, Neville said: “I’ve been training in Ireland since around 2006 and we had some nice winners, but just for the last couple of years it was a struggle. We just couldn’t get owners.

“The good thing about the UK is there’s plenty of racing and you can train horses for races. In Ireland there might be only one race meeting on during the week and you could be balloted out then for six or seven weeks. It’s very hard to keep a horse training for that long without getting into a race.

“I travelled over to England a few times and a had a few winners and I just thought ‘you know what, it’s costing too much to travel over, I’ll give it a go over here for a while and see how it goes’.

“We’ve got fabulous facilities and I get on great with Ann. I rent 22 or 23 boxes off her, it’s a lovely location and it’s going well.”

The Real Whacker shocks Dipper rivals

The Real Whacker stunned his rivals with an outsider’s victory in the Paddy Power Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham.

The seven-year-old was a 10-1 chance for the Grade Two under Sam Twiston-Davies, with Paul Nicholls’ Monmiral the most fancied of the field as the 13-8 favourite for the race better known as the Dipper.

Jumping exceptionally throughout, the Patrick Neville-trained gelding travelled strongly from the off and was not for catching when striding into an unassailable lead up the hill.

The Real Whacker came home three and a quarter lengths in front of Monmiral, with Betfair introducing him as a 25-1 chance for the Turners Novices’ Chase at the Festival and a 33-1 shot for the Brown Advisory at the March showpiece.

Neville is targeting the Festival, but will give his charge multiple options.

The trainer said: “He is a big frame and a bit babyish. We will mind him. We dropped him back (in trip), the idea being to put them under pressure, as he jumps so well.

“He will come back here for the Festival. He’ll be entered in a couple – he might even go for the Gold Cup!

“I’ve minded him as I know he is a good one. If he was in a bigger yard he would have got lost. It is brilliant.

The Real Whacker will be given multiple Festival quotes
The Real Whacker will be given multiple Festival quotes (David Davies/PA)

“Looking at Monmiral, you had to respect him as he is a Grade One winner, but this horse is progressing and is on the up. Hopefully he will be a Grade One winner soon.

“He got into a lovely rhythm. Gavin Sheehan rode him the last day and filled him with confidence. Gavin wasn’t available today, which was disappointing, as he is at Catterick.

“I’ve been looking at Sam since a young lad riding around here and he has ridden loads of winners and he knows it like the back of his hand. He was a great sub but between the two of them they are top-class men but it helps when they have a nice horse underneath them.”

Paul Nicholls still rates Monmiral highly
Paul Nicholls still rates Monmiral highly (Nigel French/PA)

Nicholls retains plenty of faith in Monmiral despite his defeat.

He said: “He’s still a bit babyish. I don’t think he did a lot wrong, but he needs to grow up a bit and he’ll be all right in time.

“Clan (Des Obeaux) was a bit like that when he was that age. It took him until six to get to that next level.

“It is bit like Bravemansgame as everyone knocked his form as a five-year-old and look at him now. Monmiral will be the same, he just needs time.”