IRELAND'S champion point-to-point rider Derek O'Connor has been provisionally booked to ride Rival D'Estruval in the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
Trained in Northumberland by Pauline Robson, the seven-year-old Rival D'Estruval has won twice from four starts over fences and was most impressive when bolting up by 23 lengths at Kelso on Sunday.
While he has yet to race beyond three miles, Robson's partner and assistant David Parker believes four miles at Prestbury Park will be right up his street.
He is unlikely to be seen on a racecourse in the meantime, and connections have wasted little time in securing the services of one of the most talented amateur riders available.
Parker said: "We're chuffed to bits with him and he's a horse who has progressed really well.
"The plan is to run him in the four-miler at Cheltenham and I don't think he needs to run again before then as he's a horse who goes extremely well fresh.
"He has enough experience having had the four runs. We started him off in a Grade Two and he's gone on from there.
"I think he has the right profile for the National Hunt Chase as he stays well but has enough pace to run well over two and a half miles. He's from the family of Granit D'Estruval, who won the Irish Grand National a few years ago.
"We've spoken with Derek O'Connor and he has agreed to ride him if he runs."
Rival D'Estruval heads the ante-post betting for the National Hunt Chase with Stan James at 12/1.