Jessica Westwood eyes Cheltenham success

Somerset's Jessica Westwood has targeted a top-six finish in the Foxhunter Chase at Cheltenham - five years after a serious riding accident.

The 20-year-old suffered swelling on the brain after being kicked by her horse in the fall, which affected her balance and her sight.

On Friday, she will ride Monkerty Tunkerty in a race touted as the amateur version of the Gold Cup.

"I hope he'll be amongst them all," she told BBC Points West.

"I would hope that he'd come in the top six at least - he's going to like this quick ground.

"We always thought Cheltenham would really suit him. He loves hills so I hope he attacks them. He'll be very excited."

Westwood admits her determination for success stems from the fact she almost had to give up on her dreams of becoming a jockey after her fall.

The swelling on her brain temporarily affected her sight - meaning she could not read, or watch television - and also caused a perforation to her ear drum leaving her unable to walk unaided for a time.

"I knew I was a totally different person. I had to learn everything, but I was convinced I was going to ride again," Westwood continued.

"The doctors told me the best thing would be to get back on a horse as it would help my balance.

"It was a very frustrating time. I was a fit, young girl and I wanted to ride and compete on my horses. It still is frustrating, as I've not had the same balance that I used to but I'll try my best and get there, hopefully."

Aboard the nine-year-old gelding, Westwood will be competing for the £20,000 prize alongside the Queen's horse, Barbers Shop, Paul Nicholls-trained Chapoturgeon and On The Fringe, owned by JP McManus - although she appears unfazed by the competition.

"I'm against the big boys but beating the professionals, there's nothing better," she added.

"I don't get nervous. The main thing is getting the horse right for the day. That's almost more difficult then riding the race. Once we're there, all I've got to do is ride to my best ability. I don't have time to be nervous.

"I do dream - I've already thought that if he did win we'd have a massive party, but you shouldn't get too excited as you could end up disappointed.

"If we come back in one piece, I'll be happy."