by Tom Collins
Jonjo O’Neill had his team primed for racing’s return from lockdown at the start of June and, after an immediate flurry of winners, he has maintained the stable’s good form into the autumn.
With 35 winners on the board, he is more than halfway to last season’s final tally of 61 and operating at a healthy 17 per cent strike-rate.
Ever the realist, O’Neill is aware he is lacking the required firepower to make him a threat in top-class races, but he has a squad full of predominantly young recruits, many of whom have yet to reach anywhere close to their ceiling.
Reflecting the arsenal at his disposal, he expects to be busy in novice hurdles this season with the exciting Soaring Glory leading the way. While Palmers Hill, a fragile but talented athlete, has the potential to soar in his maiden season over fences if managing to stay sound.
Granted some luck with Palmers Hill and his stablemates, there should be plenty for the team at Jackdaws Castle to look forward to.
Rival to watch
It was hard not to be impressed with Dusart, the horse who beat Soaring Glory at Newbury. He’s a half-brother to Simonsig and was pretty impressive considering we had experience.
Where Temple Guiting, Cheltenham
Started training 1986
Horses in yard 100
Members of staff 40
Assistant trainer AJ O’Neill
Head lads Johnny Kavanagh & Alan Berry
Travelling head staff Harrison Day & Jojo O’Neill
Racing manager Joe O’Neill
Racing secretary Jade Aspell
PA & events coordinator Clare Bowring
Accounts Cath Plumstead
Jockeys Jonjo O’Neill Jr, Richie McLernon, Alain Cawley, Gavin Sheehan, Will Kennedy, Adrian Heskin, Jonathan Burke & Nick Scholfield
Conditionals Kevin Brogan & Philip Armson
Amateur AJ O’Neill
Stable sponsor The Wasdell Group
Winners in Britain
Profit/loss to £1 stake
Total prize-money 2019-20
Shirocco (sire) – Lughnasa (dam)
Owner: Mrs Siobhan McAuley
Form figures: 212F0-1
Racing Post Rating 128h Official Rating 124h
Unfortunately, when he came in this year his wind had collapsed so we had to get that done. You don’t know how successful it’s been until they run, so I was delighted with his win at Fontwell on Sunday. We’ll stay over hurdles this season and creep away in handicaps. He’ll have no problem stepping up in trip again.
6m Mahler – Classic Mari
Coral Champions Club
RPR 147c OR 142c
She was a star last year but we found out our level when she was well beaten at Cheltenham. She ran a nice race on her return at Aintree and it always takes a run to get her tightened up, but I do think the handicapper has got her and life could be tough this season. She’s in great form and has matured over the summer but I’m not sure whether she can take the step forward.
5g Martaline – Etoile D’Ainay
Martin Broughton & Friends 1
RPR 136h OR 137h
We’ve always liked him. He’s strengthened up again this year and, if he can improve again off his comeback win at Wetherby, we might have a nice horse on our hands. He jumped well there and I’m certainly hoping he can go on. We’ll stick around two and a half miles but he can go up in time. He could run at Haydock on Saturday.
6g Publisher – Thats Grace
Mrs E J Wills
RPR 113 OR 123
He progressed from race to race last season which was encouraging. He should come on for his first experience over fences at Chepstow and will certainly relish the softer conditions during the winter.
As You Like
9g Beneficial – Rubys Shadow
John P McManus
RPR 142c OR 137c
He’s had a good summer but I think he’s reached his limit and the handicapper has got him. He likes decent ground but handles a bit of ease. He’ll probably just win in his turn now.
5g Fame And Glory – Native Sunrise
Mrs Fitri Hay
RPR 130h OR 132h
He’s quirky but talented and hopefully there’s more to come from him. His jumping was moderate when we started but it’s improved significantly and he did it very nicely at Fakenham last time. He handles some give in the ground and should go well at Wincanton on Thursday.
8g Beneficial – Cloth Fair
RPR 142c OR 136c
He looks a stronger horse now so hopefully he might be able to jump up a grade, which he couldn’t quite do last year. He’ll have to go up in the weights, but the Grand National would be a target if we can sneak him in. He’s in the Becher Chase, which might tell us something, but he wouldn’t run if it was too soft.
6g Fame And Glory – Balvenie
Andrew T S Ralph Esq
RPR 113h OR 114h
He was ready to run and I was hoping to win a race or two early in the season, but unfortunately he got quite a nasty gash and it’s taken a bit longer than I’d hoped to heal. He’s at least a month away but his best chance might come in the spring.
5g Maresca Sorrento – Kalidria Beauchene
Mrs C M Walsh
RPR 135c OR 131c
He’s had a couple of runs over fences and jumps well, so hopefully he’ll win races. He’ll probably get two and a half miles and, because his jumping is good, we might look to run in open handicap company as the novice handicaps can be pretty punchy. He’s a nice horse.
4g Coastal Path – Quarte
RPR 117h OR –
He made the perfect start for us when winning a novice hurdle in what looked a warm enough race at Carlisle. That was over 2m4f and he saw the trip out well. He’s got plenty of size and will make a lovely staying chaser in time.
5g Watar – Daly Lady
D J Burke And Delancey
RPR 118h OR 121h
He’s had a wind operation since his last run and will be out again soon. He’s one I like but I’d just like to see him put together what I’m seeing at home on the track. He’s a galloper and wouldn’t want a sharp track. We’ll probably look for a handicap hurdle next and he’ll make a nice little chaser in time.
6g Gold Well – Last Century
John P McManus
RPR 136c 136h OR 134c 134h
He’s been a great horse, winning twice over hurdles last year and twice over fences so far this. He switched back to hurdles to finish second at Cheltenham last month and you could go either way with him now. His last run was his first over three miles and I was delighted, but opportunities might be a bit thin now as I don’t think he wants it too soft.
6g Gold Well – Maypole Queen
RPR 127c OR 125c
We found an ideal race for him at Bangor last time and he jumped well for a novice. If we get a clear run with him I hope he can develop into a nice progressive chaser.
6g Oscar – Back To Loughadera
Miss Katharine J Holland
RPR 123h OR 122h
It was so frustrating to see him brought down at the second fence on his chase debut at Southwell last week but he seems none the worse for it. We’ll school him again and if all goes well he could go to Lingfield next week, although I don’t want to run him on desperate ground. He’s always looked like a chaser and isn’t on a bad mark.
7g Gold Well – Tosca Shine
John P McManus
RPR 139h OR 137h
There was nothing massively wrong with him last season but a few little issues meant he ran only once when narrowly beaten at Kempton. He’s a bit fragile but has the engine and he’s nearly ready to run. He’s matured into a gorgeous horse and we’re going to go chasing. He’d be exciting if he holds up to it.
Papa Tango Charly
5g No Risk At All – Chere Elenn
RPR 127h OR 128h
He was put in his place behind The Big Breakaway at Newbury last season but it wasn’t his running when he disappointed at Doncaster. I still think he’s a nice, young horse and an exciting one to have. He’s a chaser down the road but we’ll give him more experience over hurdles this season. He’ll be out in the next couple of weeks. He should be up to winning a maiden and I hope he’s a good bit better than that.
6g Fame And Glory – Ar Muin Na Muice
Mrs Gay Smith
RPR 107h OR 107h
He’s fragile and has had his problems but he’s come out of his win at Market Rasen well and hopefully it’s onwards and upwards. He could switch quite quickly to chasing if we wanted to, but we’ll see how he gets on at Chepstow on Friday first. He’s got a good pedigree and hopefully we’re on the right track.
7g Midnight Legend – Dancingwithbubbles
RPR 139c OR 134c
He came there with his chance at the second-last in the Paddy Power Gold Cup but that fence has caused him problems before and he got it wrong again. It probably cost him a place but he still ran a fine race. He could well go back to Cheltenham for the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup in December and we’re also keen to try him over two miles at some stage. I certainly think he travels well enough to drop back.
5g Fame And Glory – Hapeney
RPR 123h OR 133h
I’d say he got beat by a proper horse at Newbury last time, or at least I hope he did! We like this fellow and hope to have a nice season with him over hurdles before he goes chasing. He wasn’t the best at schooling to start with but he’s done a lot of work with Yogi Breisner and, if he continues to jump how he has in his first two runs over hurdles, I don’t think we’ll have a problem. We’ll look at another novice under a penalty soon and then have a think about where we go, but he’s a future chaser and one we hope is going to be around for a good few years.
6g Shirocco – Alegralil
RPR 135h OR 131h
He was very disappointing on his chase debut at Exeter last week. He just wasn’t right on the day and it was too bad to be true. We’ll go back to the drawing board but he stays three miles and I still don’t think we’ve seen the best of him.
6g Mount Nelson – Takaniya
Local Parking Security Limited
RPR 136h OR 132h
It was a good performance to land a competitive Cheltenham handicap hurdle in October and he backed that up when third in the Greatwood. He has a bit of a kink in him and almost planted down at the start, which is a pity because he wasn’t beaten far. He still ran a blinder and I was thrilled to bits. We might look at the 2m handicap hurdle just before Christmas at Ascot. The owners have generously leased him to the new Jonjo O’Neill Racing Club and hopefully he can have a good season.
When You’re Ready
6g Malinas – Royale Wheeler
Local Parking Security Limited
RPR 121h OR 118h
He’s started the season well, winning at Stratford and then finishing a close third at Leicester on Monday. They bypassed the last and it got a little bit messy but I was happy with the run and hopefully he’ll continue to improve. We’re still learning about him, but he likes a bit of cut in the ground and will stick at two miles for the time being.
Steady The Ship (4g Ocovango – Vinnie’s Princess) is a nice young horse and ran a promising race when third at Ascot on his debut. He’s related to Backspin, who won the Challow Hurdle for us, and we might look at one more run in a bumper before sending him hurdling. Pressure Sensitive (4g Shirocco – Bellavic) made a winning debut at Bangor, where the front two pulled clear, and he will go to Ascot for another bumper on Saturday before tackling hurdles. Red Maple (4g Sholokhov – Champagne Ruby) also won at Bangor on his debut and we’ll press on over hurdles now – he should be okay. Theme Tune (5g Fame And Glory – Supreme Melody) has run creditably in two bumpers and he’s a horse who jumps well, so we’re heading over hurdles now. Fast Getaway (4g Getaway – Maddy’s Supreme) made a pleasing debut when fourth at Ludlow but we’ll take our time and stick to bumpers as he’s growing a lot and still quite weak. On The Bandwagon (5g Oscar – Deep Supreme) was as weak as a kitten last year but we’re hoping he’ll make up into a nice horse this year. He’ll start in a bumper but will get a trip when he goes hurdling. Shantou’s Melody (4g Shantou – Glens Melody) was just touched off on his debut at Fontwell and ran well enough in a red-hot bumper at Cheltenham last time. He jumps well at home and goes hurdling now. Monbeg Genius (4g Shantou – Ella Watson) was a promising second in a point-to-point last month and he should strengthen up and improve with time. Mercutio Rock (4g Maresca Sorrento- Mondovi) will have learnt plenty from his debut at Chepstow and we’re looking forward to him making his debut over hurdles on Friday.
Two for the tracker
I hope Arrivederci can keep on improving and Steady The Ship is a nice youngster to keep an eye on.
The days of Jonjo O’Neill’s squad comprising a vast selection of old and exposed chasers are long gone and he is set for an exciting winter with a number of promising and well-bred types gearing up to strike.
When asked for a bold prediction for the jumps season this month, I suggested O’Neill would train 100-plus winners for the first time since 2014-15, where he tallied 104. He already has 35 on the board, so just how bold that was is up in the air, but it’s certainly achievable.
Smart hurdlers Tegerek, Soaring Glory and Arrivederci will help keep that total ticking over. They all appear to be improving at a rate of knots, especially Soaring Glory, and will pay their way this year.
Over fences Garry Clermont and Orrisdale have long been in my tracker and appear unlucky not to have got off the mark yet this term. Orrisdale, especially, could be chucked in off his rating of 122 based on a couple of promising bumper and hurdle displays.
Given the new strategy employed by O’Neill, you wouldn’t put it past him training a fair share of bumper winners this term, either. So keep those trackers open!