sport

O'Brien set for Festival first

Joseph O'Brien cannot wait to make his first visit to the Cheltenham Festival when he rides in the Champion Bumper.

Crowned champion jockey on the Flat in Ireland at the end of last year, the 19-year-old successfully applied to the Irish Turf Club for a jumps licence to allow him to ride at the Festival.

O'Brien, who won the 2000 Guineas and the English and Irish Derbies on Camelot last year, takes the mount on Shield, trained by his father Aidan.

While the young jockey has yet to experience the Mecca of jumps racing, his father is no stranger to the meeting. His winners include the triple Champion Hurdle winner Istabraq.

O'Brien jnr is hoping for beginners' luck when he gets the leg up on Shield, who got off the mark at Leopardstown just a fortnight after finishing fourth on his debut at Punchestown.

Those performances were just enough to book him a place in the field.

"Obviously he just got in the race at the bottom," he said.

"First time out he got tired in very bad ground at Punchestown and we had to run him quite quick to qualify for the race in case he ended up going there.

"He won nicely in Leopardstown and hopefully he will have come on for the run.

"I've never actually been to Cheltenham before. It can be a rough race, but I'm looking forward to something different."

Another Flat champion looking to turn over the jumps boys is Britain's number one, Richard Hughes.

He has ridden at the Festival several times before without success and is hoping to break his duck on two-time winner Sgt Reckless for Mick Channon.

"I hope I've got a good chance. I rode him work and I liked him. He certainly goes there with a chance.

"It's a rough race and you need luck in running."