Jonjo O’Neill loves it after plan comes together for Soaring Glory at Newbury
THE legendary Jonjo O’Neill rode many iconic winners in a career defined by bravery. He’s also among a select group of trainers to have saddled Cheltenham Gold Cup and Grand National victors.
Yet few of these storybook successes will have give him as much personal pleasure as watching Soaring Glory – ridden to perfection by his son Jonjo Jnr – surge to victory in a fiercely competitive Betfair Hurdle at Newbury.
The burgeoning jockey’s most notable win yet for his father, this was a novice beating proven hurdlers in a strongly-run race.
It saw the Pat Hickey-owned Soaring Glory effectively confirm his credentials as a leading player in next month’s Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival if connections go down the Grade One route.
And it moved O’Neill Snr to walk down the horsewalk to greet the returning Soaring Glory and give a thumbs up to his son in the saddle whose face mask could not hide a smile as wide as the Berkshire track.
Newbury has been kind to the O’Neill family this season after the Trevor Hemmings-owned Cloth Cap won the feature Ladbrokes Trophy at the end of November and is now vying for Randox Grand National favouritism.
“It was one of those plans that came together – it all went right,” said O’Neill after the race. “He jumped and travelled well. It’s easy to get into trouble in a race like that but everything fell into place.
“Once he jumped the last I was happy and thought it would take a good one to pass him because we know how quick he is at home.”
Soaring Glory beat the highly-regarded Bravemansgame, now a Grade One winner, at Chepstow before suffering a heavy fall at Wetherby.
Specialist schooling with guru Yogi Breisner helped regain the confidence of the hurdler who then won at Ascot before taking this celebrated prize.
“After Chepstow, he fell when going too easily in a bad race at Wetherby,” explained the trainer.
“He was not a natural jumper and Yogi Breisner did a lot of work on him. It’s great to win a race like this and we thought ‘let’s have a go’ as novices often do well in it.”
O’Neill will almost certainly look at the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. He added: “He’s entitled to run in it and Jonjo is riding with loads of confidence. He’s super cool and he does the job right.” Praise indeed.
Earlier, Nicky Henderson’s Champ enhanced his Cheltenham Gold Cup credentials in defeat after finding only Sceau Royal too strong in the Betfair Game Spirit Chase.
Ridden forward by Nico de Boinville back over this shorter trip, Champ travelled with zest and jumped with accuracy, before eventually being reeled in by Alan King’s proven two-miler Sceau Royal.
“He’s enjoyed himself there and he’s clearly not slow,” said a delighted Henderson who wanted to give Champ, a Festival winner last year, a run before next month’s blue riband race.
The win was a bitter-sweet one for a visibly emotional Daryl Jacob just 24 hours after the loss of L’Ami Serge at Ascot. Like Sceau Royal, he was a standard-bearer for owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede.
On a tough weekend for racing, David Bridgwater’s stable star The Conditonal, a former Festival winner and leading light for this year’s Randox Grand National, was put down after suffering a serious injury in the Betfair Denman Chase.
This saw the Bryony Frost-ridden and Paul Nicholls-trained Secret Investor make all and repel stablemate Clan Des Obeaux, the dual King George VI Chase hero, in a thrilling climax. It completed a mixed weekend for the Nicholls team after Cyrname was pulled up the previous day in the Grade One Ascot Chase won by Dashel Drasher for trainer Jeremy Scott and jockey Matt Griffiths.
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