By Simon Jackson
Jonjo O’Neill has high hopes of continuing a great season when he saddles Taquin Du Seuil in the Grade 1 JLT Novices’ Chase on the third day of the Cheltenham Festival.
The former dual champion jumps jockey, whose riding career was possibly highlighted by the victory on Dawn Run in the 1986 Cheltenham Gold Cup, has been in superb form this season, bagging 117 victories to lead the way on winners trained in the current campaign.
The Gloucester trainer expects to have around a dozen runners at this year’s Festival and said at his open day on Thursday that he was “excited” by the chances of last start winner Taquin Du Seuil who is prominent in the betting for the Novices’ Chase on March 13.
“Taquin Du Seuil will get a proper gallop in the JLT,” O’Neill said. “Obviously, there is not much between [fancied runner] Oscar Whisky and Taquin Du Seuil. Oscar would have more pace but Taquin is a good horse and, as long as the ground does not dry out too much, he will run well. He is best on soft ground, though I will run him on good ground.
“I know he likes a good pace in his races and I could not have him in better shape – he is in really good form.
“I am very happy with my fellow and, last time, there was not much between him and Oscar at Cheltenham and they were some 15 lengths ahead of the third.
“He jumps well, he travels well and he does everything well. His run at The Festival last year was not his form but he has run well at Cheltenham over fences since so I don’t think it was the course.”
O’Neill has a proud record at the Cheltenham Festival, training 22 winners since first scoring with Danny Connors in 1991 and has bagged a hat-trick of victories at each of the 2003, 2004 and 2007 Cheltenham Festivals.
And while he admits that he has no star contender this year, he is in a confident mood with a string that is in good form.
“I don’t have a real headline horse but, touch wood, the horses are in grand form and you hope that they will perform on the day,” O’Neill continued.
“I am very happy with Taquin Du Seuil – he does excite me. He might not have shown it as much on the track as he does at home but, if he gets the opportunity, a good gallop and jumps well, he will make them go.”
Read Horse Talk with Simon Jackson each day at London24 for the latest horse racing news.