The Real Whacker, Patrick Neville’s exciting novice chaser, is going straight to the Cheltenham Festival.

The seven-year-old was placed in Grade Two company as a novice hurdler last season. In November, he made a successful chasing debut at Cheltenham, and on his return to Prestbury Park on New Year’s Day, he put on a spring-heeled performance to win the Dipper Novices’ Chase.

The Real Whacker has been given an ambitious entry in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, but it looks like it will stick with novice company, with the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase, which has a shorter trip, as the likely goal.

Neville stated, “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.”

Neville trains about 20 horses out of Ann Duffield’s yard in North Yorkshire. The Real Whacker is the star of the team, which relocated from Ireland in 2021.

Neville was supposed to move into his own yard in Middleham, but he ended up moving in with Duffield outside of Leyburn, where they have had a good 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.”

“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.”

Neville remarked, pondering his decision to relocate across the Irish Sea, “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.”

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