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O’Neill singles out Taquin Du Seuil as leading Festival hope

Trainer Jonjo O’Neill believes JLT Novices’ Chase contender Taquin Du Seuil gives him his best chance of success at the Cheltenham Festival.

The gelding, who is three from five over fences this season, beat Oscar Whisky when they first clashed at the track back in November when giving that rival 5lb.

He was beaten just 3/4 of a length by Nicky Henderson’s charge when they last met in the Grade 2 Dipper Novices’ Chase on New Year’s, where a stumble after the last could well have proved costly.

He is currently an 8/1 chance with Coral for the 2m 4f JLT.

O’Neill, speaking on a media day at his Jackdaws Castle base, said: “He will get a proper gallop in the JLT. Obviously, there is not much between Oscar Whisky and Taquin Du Seuil. Oscar would have more pace but Taquin is a good horse and, as long as the ground does not dry out too much, he will run well. He is best on soft ground, though I will run him on good ground.

“I know he likes a good pace in his races and I could not have him in better shape – he is in really good form.

“I am very happy with my fellow and, last time, there was not much between him and Oscar at Cheltenham and they were some 15 lengths ahead of the third.

“He jumps well, he travels well and he does everything well. His run at The Festival last year was not his form but he has run well at Cheltenham over fences since so I don’t think it was the course.”

Jonjo O’Neill has only missed out on a winner at The Festival once since 2000 (in 2005) and he does not mind which race he captures.

“So long as I have a winner, I don’t give monkeys which horse in which race it is. If Goodwood Mirage acts on the track, he will run a cracker. I am worried about him coming down the hill because he has a floating chip in his joint – some days it is grand, other days it is not. That and he wants gelding. He goes for the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (4.40pm, Ladies Day, Wednesday, March 12th). I would have preferred going for the JCB Triumph Hurdle but he is not good enough for that.

“I don’t have a real headline horse but, touch wood, the horses are in grand form and you hope that they will perform on the day. I am very happy with Taquin De Seuil – he does excite me. He might not have shown it as much on the track as he does at home but, if he gets the opportunity, a good gallop and jumps well, he will make them go.”

The trainer has 31 entries going forward for The Festival but does not expect to have that many runners, with plenty of horses not getting into the handicaps.
Here are his thoughts on some of his main contenders:

Alfie Sherrin
Entered in Baylis & Harding Affordable Luxury Handicap Chase and Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase

“At the moment, he won’t get in the Baylis & Harding Affordable Luxury Handicap Chase (2.40pm, Champion Day, Tuesday, March 11), which has put a bit of a blocker on it.

He has got a bit of wind problem and his joints can cause problems so he is not the easiest horse to keep sound. But he is in great form at the moment and I have not run him because of the heavy ground. Hopefully, we have done the right thing and kept him fresh. He has done a lot of work. We hope to run him at The Festival.”

Current Coral odds: 14/1 Baylis & Harding Affordable Luxury Handicap Chase, 16/1 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase

Eastlake
Entered Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase

“Eastlake will go for the Johnny Henderson. He has been running well this season – he would be better with a bit better ground as it won’t catch his wind so much. He is what he is but he likes Cheltenham which helps.”

Current Coral odds: 20/1

Get Me Out of Here
Entered in Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle and Coral Cup

“Get Me Out Of Here is in the County and the Coral and he will run probably in the County. He ran very well over two miles at Cheltenham in December. He has been beaten in both races previously and it will depend on what other horses J P (McManus) has running. He is great shape at the moment. He is another one who is so difficult to keep right – he has more problems than I have!”
Current Coral odds: 33/1 Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle, 33/1 Coral Cup

Holywell
Entered in Baylis & Harding Affordable Luxury Handicap Chase, Biddlecombe National Hunt Chase, RSA Chase, World Hurdle and Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase
“I am not too sure yet in which race he will run because the handicapper gave him 145 and he beat a horse at Doncaster rated 132. So I don’t know where he got the handicap mark from. We will see. He might even go back to hurdles for the World Hurdle.”
Current Coral odds: 12/1 Baylis & Harding Affordable Luxury Handicap Chase, 12/1 Terry Biddlecombe National Hunt Chase, 33/1 RSA Chase, 50/1 World Hurdle and 12/1 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase

Johns Spirit
Entered in Byrne Group Plate
“He is in great form – he worked brilliantly the other morning. The reason he hasn’t run is he keeps getting sore shins. He was fired and blistered after his last race so we have done a proper job on him. The owner has been away until now so it has suited us not to run him. He has got stronger this season and is much happier in himself. He goes well for Richie (McLernon) and they suit each other. I would blame the shins for his last run. He was sore after the Paddy Power and we struggled to get him back for the race in December. He ran well off a higher rating and it is a hard thing to do – win both the Paddy Power and that race. You need to come out of the Paddy Power flying and he came out sore. It is a hard race, the Paddy Power. He is working fantastically at the minute and I hope it stays that way for the next two weeks. He goes for the Byrne Group Plate (4pm, St Patrick’s Thursday, March 13). He likes Cheltenham.”
Current Coral odds: 12/1

More Of That
Entered in Ladbrokes World Hurdle
“He is in good shape and it looks like he will stay the three miles of the Ladbrokes World Hurdle (3.20pm St Patrick’s Thursday, March 13). He won at Haydock because he stayed. Do I have a doubt in my mind? Well, I think he will stay, though going to Cheltenham for The Festival is a hard thing to do, they don’t hang around and the finish is up a hill. We don’t really know. I am not totally sure he will go for the World Hurdle but he is ready and I would think Richie (McLernon) will ride him. Richie won on him first time out and knows the horse well. More Of That is a good traveler in his races but it makes me nervous that he has not raced over three miles before – it is going into the unknown. He is a fair horse but how strong is his form? I would imagine A P (McCoy) will ride At Fisher’s Cross but he will come to ride work this week and next week and make his mind up. I hope he rides ours.”
Current Coral odds: 6/1