KINSALE jockey Ben Curtis continued his brilliant run with victory aboard Dandalla in the ultra-competitive Albany Stakes at Royal Ascot last week.
This was a hugely significant victory for the Cork man and a first-ever victory at the highest-profile meeting of the flat calendar. Curtis has been really making a name for himself across the water and rode the most impressive juvenile at the meeting.
Confidence is everything in sport and Curtis followed up with a treble at Beverly on Tuesday. Just like a Cheltenham winner for a jumps jockey, a winner at Royal Ascot means everything for any flat rider.
“It was unbelievably really and as a jockey you dream of riding a winner at this meeting. The best horses from around the world travel to Royal Ascot so to win a race like the Albany is the stuff of dreams,” Curtis said.
“Obviously the atmosphere was different with no crowds, but when you cross the winning line six lengths clear in a Group 3 it’s hard to put into words. I’ve been trying for 11 years to ride a winner there but it’s just so competitive.
“But it’s a massive relief and a great confidence booster to be doing it at the highest level of our sport. It is probably the highlight of my career so far.”
From an early age, Ben Curtis always looked like a man going places. He spent a number of years attached to the John Murphy yard at Upton before moving to the Curragh with John Oxx.
Even as a young apprentice he possessed that hunger and determination that all top sportsmen require. Getting opportunities in this country is very tough and Curtis decided to make the move to England where there is so much racing.
It has certainly paid dividends and his name is regularly appearing in the winners’ column. His victory last week was the result of many years of hard graft.
“A Royal Ascot winner certainly made me reflect and it was people like John Murphy who put me on the road. All my best friends are still back in Cork and Ireland so the amount of best wishes has been amazing.
“I watch the Irish racing all the time over here and its Irish Derby weekend which is always very special. As I mentioned earlier this has been an 11-year wait at Ascot.
“There were many times over the years that I thought I had a great chance of winning a race and ended up fifth or sixth.
“It was frustrating and you question your ability so let’s just say it was the culmination of many years hard work along with patience and perseverance.”
Racing at the highest level is all about getting on the best horses. So Curtis has a really great opportunity now with Dandalla who looks top class indeed.
This filly will now have opportunities at the other major festivals including York, Goodwood, and the Champions weekend at Ascot.
The winning margin and impressive nature of the victory suggested that connections were expecting a huge run. Curtis confirms as much.
“It was my best chance by a long way. So myself and Karl Burke (trainer) were on the phone about 10 times a day during last week.
“We knew it would take something very very special to beat us. We were watching the ground and had contemplated running in the Queen Mary. But we stuck with the six-furling race and in the end, it was a wise decision.
“We will be entitled to run in all the big Group races all summer which is very exciting obviously. We knew she was a very exciting filly, but she had to do it on the racecourse.
“Thankfully it all worked out well.”