Bullish O'Neill hails More Of That best he's ever trained
Jonjo O'Neill labelled More Of That "the best horse I've ever trained" and outlined his big ambitions for the second-season chaser, kicking off with the BetVictor Gold Cup at Cheltenham on Saturday.
The only horse to have beaten Annie Power when she has remained standing, in the 2014 World Hurdle, More Of That has not been sighted since breaking a blood vessel as beaten favourite in the RSA Chase in March.
But O'Neill is convinced he is Gold Cup class and is hoping the ground conditions at Cheltenham are favourable enough for the eight-year-old to make his long-awaited return.
O'Neill also confirmed that Taquin Du Seuil, who made an eyecatching reappearance over hurdles last month, would also be in the line-up for the Grade 3 showpiece with Aidan Coleman again likely to take the ride.
The Jackdaws Castle trainer has not saddled a Grade 1 winner for two and a half years but hopes More Of That can end that drought this season.
“He's in great shape and we've been delighted with his build-up and I think he's the best horse I've ever trained," said O'Neill. "It was disappointing that he could not run at Carlisle the other day but the ground up there was just a bit too fast.
"We have left him in the race and we are desperate to to run but it will all depend on the ground with the final decision being left to owner JP McManus, his racing manager Frank Berry and Sir Anthony McCoy later in the week when we know a bit more.
"Although More Of That has had his well-documented problems he's very good and is a horse with plenty of pace and as long as it rains hopefully we will see that come Saturday."
When asked what the long term target for the World Hurdle winner might be, O'Neill added: "I'd like to think in terms of the Gold Cup next March but there must be a little question mark in him seeing out the extended three miles and two furlongs as, apart from the World Hurdle, most of his wins have come at around two and a half miles."
Nicky Henderson has yet to hit peak form but could be represented by Full Shift in the BetVictor Gold Cup. He said: "If they get the rain at Cheltenham he's likely to run but we are not as forward as some trainers and, maybe, the the horses need to be a little riper than they are at present."
Henderson added Simonsig could go for the Grade 2 Shloer Chase on Sunday where he could take on Fox Norton, who was very impressive when scoring at the Showcase meeting last month and has since left Neil Mulholland to join Colin Tizzard after being purchased for an undisclosed sum by Ann and Alan Potts.
Henderson is also likely to saddle Hargam in the Greatwood Hurdle where the McManus-owned five year old will be conceding weight all round. He said: “The horse is well in himself after his recent win at Kempton last month and this looks the obvious next step."
Three of the best
Sir Robert Ogden's chaser had the misfortune of competing in the same era as Kauto Star. In fact he and Kauto met nine times and Exotic Dancer never beat him, finishing second to the great horse in the Gold Cup, King George and Betfair Chase. Exotic Dancer also won the BetVictor Gold Cup and landed the Lexus Chase by 20 lengths.
A three-time festival winner with wins in the RSA and two Ryanairs. Albertas Run was top class, especially at two and a half miles and, of his nine chase victories, seven were at Grade 2 level or higher.
Gave O'Neill perhaps his finest moment as a trainer when winning the Gold Cup in 2012. That victory culminated two years of massive improvement, as the plodder who ground out victory in the 2010 Midlands National went on to be the top staying chaser in the land.