Sunday 14 February 2021

Rebecca Curtis: Starting Again

Rebecca Curtis first took out a public training licence at Fforest Farm, near Newport, Pembrokeshire in West Wales in 2008. A former national level showjumper, Curtis served her apprenticeship with local trainer Peter Bowen, based in nearby Little Newcastle, and U.S. trainers Richard Mandella and Dan Hendricks, based in California, before setting up on her own.

Starting with just a handful of horses, Curtis saddled her first winner, Mango Catcher, in a handicap chase at Chepstow on April 5, 2008. The eight-year-old was, in fact, her one and only winner of the 2007/08, but she increased her winning tally to eight in 2009/10 and 25 in 2010/11. In 2012/13, Curtis enjoyed her most successful season, numerically and financially, so far, with 49 winners from 210 runners, at a strike rate of 23%, and £562,663 in total prize money.

Curtis saddled her first winner at the Cheltenham Festival, Teaforthree – who would subsequently finish third in the Grand National the following year – in the National Hunt Chase in 2012. Further success at the Cheltenham Festival followed, courtesy of At Fishers Cross – owned by J.P. McManus who, at one point, had half a dozen horses in the yard – in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle in 2013, O’Faolain’s Boy in the RSA Chase 2014 and Irish Cavalier in the Centenary Novices' Handicap Chase in 2015.

In the summer of 2017, Curtis split from her long-term partner, bloodstock agent Gearoid Costelloe, who had been instrumental in sourcing young, untried horses which, in turn, had helped to establish the reputation of the yard. By her own admission, Curtis endured ‘an awful season’, in which she lost half of the horses in the yard and made only limited impact, saddling just nine winners in total in 2017/18. The one highlight in that ‘transitional’ season was the victory of Joe Farrell, ridden by Adam Wedge, in the Scottish Grand National at Ayr in 2018; Joe Farrell remains Curtis’ one and only runner ever at the Scottish venue but, nonetheless, collected £122,442, or the biggest single prize of her training career.

Having vowed to ‘start again’, Curtis is still in the process of restoring the yard to its former glory but, at the time of writing, her horses are generally in decent form. In 2019/20 so far, Curtis has saddled 12 winners from 25 runners, at a strike rate of 48%, and won £62,364 in win and place prize money.

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