By Simon Jackson.
Jockey Richie McLernon is upbeat about the chances of Johns Spirit who bids for back-to-back victories in the £160,000 Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham on Saturday.
McLernon notched the biggest success of his career when he teamed up with Johns Spirit last year to win the Grade 3 contest which is the feature race of The Open meeting.
The Jonjo O’Neill-trained seven-year-old is priced at 9-1 with the sponsors to repeat last year’s victory and impressed when winning at Cheltenham on his reappearance last month.
The victory was Johns Spirit’s third at Cheltenham in the past 13 months and McLernon described himself as ‘confident enough’ ahead of Saturday’s race which has attracted a field of 19 runners.
“It takes a certain horse to act around Cheltenham. They have to have a bit of speed and be able to jump,” said McLernon, who has been attached to O’Neill’s Gloucestershire yard since 2007.
“Johns Spirit likes it around Cheltenham and he is strong enough that he can come up the hill now. A lot of the horses cannot handle the hill and going up it. His jumping takes you there when you need him. He is quite versatile.
“You are always confident when you are riding a good horse. You can never really tell at home how Johns Spirit is because he never does anything special. But physically he is a different horse this season – a lot stronger and more relaxed in himself at home. He is grand.
“He was very good when winning at Cheltenham last month. He felt good at home and relaxed pre-race. He feels the same now so I would be confident enough.”
O’Neill added: “Johns Spirit is more settled this year. I think he has grown up a lot. He is a much happier horse. He has been plagued with sore shins but that seems to have settled down.
“He likes a bit of cut in the ground. I was surprised by how well he won at the first Cheltenham meeting last month. Either the race wasn’t very good or he has improved.
“He has gone up a lot in the ratings and hopefully he is still improving – we will see at the weekend but it is a tough call.
“He a young horse who is in his prime now.”
Paddy Power Gold Cup (Paddy Power odds): 6 Present View, 7 Buywise, 9 Oscar Whisky, Johns Spirit, 10 Indian Castle, 12 Attaglance, Easter Meteor, 14 Shanpallas, Ericht, 16 Persian Snow, Caid Du Berlais, 20 Cantlow, Edgardo Sol, Kapga De Cerisy, Champion Court, Eastlake, 33 Cedre Bleu, King Massini, 50 Orpheus Valley. Each way ¼ odds, 1-2-3-4
The Paddy Power Gold Cup
£160,000 total prize fund, Cheltenham, Saturday, November 15, 2014. Two miles, four and a half furlongs.
|OSCAR WHISKY (IRE)||9||11-12||Walters Plant Hire Ltd||Nicky Henderson/Barry Geragthy|
|JOHNS SPIRIT (IRE)||7||11-12||Christopher Johnston||Jonjo O’Neill/Richie McLernon|
|EDGARDO SOL (FR)||7||11-06||Axom XXXII||Emma Lavelle/Daryl Jacob|
|CHAMPION COURT (IRE)||9||11-05||Mark Boothright||Martin Keighley/Wayne Hutchinson|
|KAPGA DE CERISY (FR)||6||11-04||Andrew Brooks||Venetia Williams/Aidan Coleman|
|EASTER METEOR||8||11-04||Mr & Mrs S C Willes||David Pipe/Tom Scudamore|
|SHANPALLAS (IRE)||6||11-03||J P McManus||Charles Byrnes IRE/Davy Russell|
|CANTLOW (IRE)||9||11-03||J P McManus||Paul Webber/Tom O’Brien|
|EASTLAKE (IRE)||8||11-02||J P McManus||Jonjo O’Neill/Jason Maguire|
|BUYWISE (IRE)||7||11-02||T Hywel Jones||Evan Williams/Paul Moloney|
|PRESENT VIEW||6||11-00||Sir Chips Keswick||Jamie Snowden/Brendan Powell|
|ATTAGLANCE||8||10-13||Mrs H Young, G Eifert, R Snyder||Malcolm Jefferson/Brian Hughes|
|CAID DU BERLAIS (FR)||5||10-13||Donlon, Doyle, MacDonald & C Barber||Paul Nicholls/Sam Twiston-Davies|
|PERSIAN SNOW (IRE)||8||10-11||D R Peppiatt||Philip Hobbs/Richard Johnson|
|INDIAN CASTLE (IRE)||6||10-10||Askew Dick Hernon Reynard||Ian Williams/Noel Fehily|
|CEDRE BLEU (FR)||7||10-09||Tangledupinblue||Charlie Mann/Gavin Sheehan|
|ORPHEUS VALLEY (IRE)||11||10-07||No Horse Box Syndicate||Tom Gibney IRE/Mark Enright|
|ERICHT (IRE)||8||10-07||Bridget Hanbury||Nicky Henderson/Andrew Tinkler|
|KING MASSINI (IRE)||8||10-01||Border Pointers||Evan Williams/Adam Wedge|
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