Jonjo O’Neill: will be focusing on the Cheltenham Festival
PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
By David Ashforth 6:00PM 20 NOV 2016
EVERY year, people wonder what Jonjo O’Neill is going to pluck out of the bag for the Cheltenham Festival. Luckily for you, I’ve already worked it out and the occupant of the bag is running at Kempton on Monday.
Really, I should keep it to myself and devote my time to working out how long to spend in the Seychelles before moving on to the Sandy Lane Hotel in Barbados to find out whether or not part-owner Dermot Desmond, owner of Commanche Court, winner of the 1997 Triumph Hurdle, has still got his impressive moustache.
It’s the sort of moustache that daredevil pilots once wore although comedians Jimmy Edwards and Terry Thomas used to have one, too. I once saw Edwards playing polo which, for those of you old enough to remember him, may come as a surprise. The pony will remember.
But I digress. The 2017 Festival winner is called Lost Legend and you don’t need to bother with research yourself because I’ve already done it for you. The key points are that Lost Legend has run well at the Festival twice before and is handicapped for a successful return.
In 2015, off a mark of 141, Lost Legend finished a creditable sixth of 24 in the Ultima Handicap Chase. In 2016, off a mark of 140, the nine-year-old fell four out in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Chase. Up to that point, given a fine creeping ride by Mr S Clements, Lost Legend had jumped notably well (a small question mark on the downhill fences) and was making further ground in seventh place. Although his stamina for the trip was unproven, there was a good chance he would have been involved in the finish.
Eight months and three races later Lost Legend’s handicap mark has dropped to an inviting 130, although with Cheltenham in mind that might be a mixed blessing. The lowest rated horse in last season’s Kim Muir was 134 and in the Ultima Chase it was 131. Lost Legend may not make the cut. (There’s always something, isn’t there?)
Even off his new mark and at the two and a half mile trip over which Lost Legend has done most of his winning, I don’t expect too much on Monday (2.35). No, the telescope will be focused on Cheltenham. One winner out of the bag and in the bag already. Excellent.
The Kempton race is a 0-135 handicap chase worth £9,384 to the winner but at Ludlow, justifiably renowned for its good prize-money, a similar race (2.50) offers £11,696 to the winner.
At 1.40 Ludlow stages a 0-105 handicap chase worth £6,498 to the winner and, at 3.50, a 0-115 handicap hurdle worth £5,198 to the winner. These compare favourably with Kempton, where a 0-120 handicap hurdle (3.10) is worth only £3,249 and a 0-130 handicap hurdle (3.40) pays the winner £5,393.
Credit where credit’s due, Chelmsford has two races worth over £22,000 to the winner and another two worth over £8,000 each. Goodee.