Jonjo O’Neill – Trainer In Focus
Jonjo O’Neill’s most notable Cheltenham Festival successes have been Synchronised in the Gold Cup and More of That and Iris’s Gift in the World Hurdle, however it is the National Hunt Chase in which he has had most success with 5 winners. Meanwhile, he has also won the Pertemps final three times, whilst he trained Albertas Run to win the RSA and two Ryanair Chases.
He may have had a quiet season so far, and drawn a blank at the 2015 Cheltenham Festival, but with 25 Cheltenham Festival winners to his name he is certainly not to be underestimated at this year’s Cheltenham Festival where he looks to have several horses with excellent chances – and it’s time to take a look at those horses.
More of That
The 2014 World Hurdle winner is pure class, and returned from a year on the injury list to easily win two novice chases. He’s short in both the RSA and JLT but, though O’Neill has stated he wants him to run in the former, it’s worth waiting to see which race he turns up in before needing to have to part with any of your hard earned. Owned by legendary owner/gambler JP McManus, he may well start favourite for his chosen target, and deserves to having won all 5 of his Cheltenham starts.
The Ultima Handicap Chase is his likely Cheltenham target, and O’Neill has also already won the Pertemps in 2013 and this race in 2014 with the likeable 9-year-old. He’s 8lb higher in the handicap than when winning this race two years ago, though he was rated 10lb higher still when fourth in last year’s Gold Cup. Had a poor season so far, but often best in the spring, and prefers good ground.
Taquin Du Seuil
Just like More Of That, Taquin Du Seuill won at the 2014 Festival before sustaining an injury, but has returned this season in good form. Looks likely to carry top-weight in the Brown Advisory and Merriebelle Stable Plate, but it’s worth remembering that he beat last year’s Ryan Air winner Uxizandre when winning the JLT Chase in 2014.
Another horse owned by JP McManus and, having been battered off the boards in recent weeks, is now down to 5/1 for the National Hunt Chase. O’Neill certainly knows what it takes to win this race having saddled 5 winners, and the horse looks an out and out stayer.
Having finished second in last year’s Grand Annual, he looks likely to bid to go one better this year in the same race where he’ll run off a very similar mark to the one he ran off last year. Another JP McManus owned horse.
After two second places on soft ground, better ground could see this exciting recruit in a much better light – and he could be on a very lenient mark in the Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle.
The other exciting prospect, who could feature in a Handicap rather than the Triumph, is Pillard. He is set to carry 10.07 in the Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle