Tag Archive for: Jonjo O’Neill

AJ O’Neill to join father Jonjo on training licence

Jonjo O’Neill is confident son AJ will bring “new energy and new ideas” to the Jackdaws Castle operation after being added to the training licence ahead of next season.

O’Neill senior has enjoyed great success since setting up in 2001, with Gold Cup hero Synchronised featuring among 26 Cheltenham Festival winners, while Don’t Push It provided him with Grand National glory at Aintree.

However, at the age of 72, the former two-time champion jockey believes the time is right to freshen things up via this new partnership.

He told his stable website: “AJ has been invaluable to me over the past few years as my assistant and this is a natural progression, really.

“We remain very ambitious here and I’m very excited to be sharing the licence with him. As a family, we have always been a great team and I am very proud of that.

Horse Racing – 2010 John Smith’s Grand National – Day Three – Aintree Racecourse
Jonjo O’Neill with JP McManus and Tony McCoy after winning the Grand National with Don’t Push It (David Davies/PA).

“AJ will bring so much to the new partnership, new energy and new ideas and he has always been an excellent horseman – but then I would say that, wouldn’t I?

“I know he is keen to have some more runners on the Flat, as well as broadening the appeal of O’Neill Racing.”

AJ O’Neill added: “I enjoy riding as an amateur for the yard but training a winner gives me a different sort of buzz.

“I love the whole process, all the way through from the sales to the racecourse and the thrill it brings to the team and all of our owners.

“We continue to invest heavily to maintain our state-of-the-art facilities and are very proud of the way we look after our horses.

“I can’t wait to get going.”



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Monbeg Genius among latest Grand National defections

Monbeg Genius, previously strongly fancied for Randox Grand National glory, has been scratched from the race at the latest confirmation stage.

The Jonjo O’Neill-trained chaser has run disappointingly in his last two races, at Kelso and in the Ultima at Cheltenham when he was pulled up, and has been taken out along with 16 others.

He is owned by Baroness Michelle Mone and her husband Doug Barrowman, who had a restraint order placed on some assets, although Monbeg Genius was not affected by that decision and has continued running in the colours of Barrowman Racing Limited.

Original top weight Hewick had already been scratched and others higher up in the list to come out include Asterion Forlonge, Threeunderthrufive, Letsbeclearaboutit, James Du Berlais and Longhouse Poet.

The others taken out on Tuesday were Busselton, Diol Ker, Macs Charm, Dunboyne, Mister Coffey, Moroder, Gevrey, Fiddlerontheroof, Highland Hunter and Revels Hill.

Those defectors mean Dan Skelton’s mare Galia Des Liteaux currently sits in the final guaranteed spot of 34th on the list ahead of the five-day confirmation stage on April 8 and final declarations on April 11.

Currently six horses from number 33 to 38 on the list are due to carry 10st 6lb, with their current handicap marks at the time of elimination to decide the order of balloting. Should that still be identical, it will then come down to a random ballot.



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O’Neill to consider Cheltenham spin for Monbeg Genius

Jonjo O’Neill is not ruling out a Cheltenham Festival appearance for Monbeg Genius after a disappointing effort at Kelso on Saturday.

The eight-year-old was among the leading lights in the ante-post market for the Randox Grand National prior to his outing in the Premier Chase, which was a first run since finishing third in the Coral Gold Cup back in December.

Minor setbacks scuppered his intended runs since and there was concern his season could be curtailed after assets linked to owners Baroness Michelle Mone and her husband Doug Barrowman were made the subject of a restraint order, but the British Horseracing Authority subsequently confirmed Monbeg Genius would not be affected.

Sent off a 5-2 chance at Kelso, Monbeg Genius trailed home in fifth place, beaten 38 lengths by Thunder Rock, and O’Neill could give him a chance to redeem himself in the Ultima Handicap Chase at Cheltenham on Tuesday week, a race in which he finished third last year.

He told Sky Sports Racing: “He’s fine but it was disappointing really, we were expecting a better show than that, to be fair.

“He’ll have to come on a lot, but he’s come out of it fine and we might even give him another spin at Cheltenham, we’ll see. It wasn’t the plan but he might come on a bit more.

“The practice might help, he didn’t jump great yesterday, he didn’t do anything that we hoped he would, so let’s see how he is.

“He’s in at Cheltenham, so we’ll have a look and see.”

Monbeg Genius is now a best-priced 33-1 shot for Aintree on April 13.

O’Neill is also keeping his options open with exciting bumper prospect Mister Meggit following his facile success in the Download The Racecourse App Raceday Ready Open NH Flat Race at Doncaster.

Having won by a dozen lengths on his Carlisle debut in November, the six-year-old hacked up by four and three-quarter lengths at 8-15 at Town Moor following a 119-day absence.

Coral cut Mister Meggit from 25-1 to 16-1 for the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham and O’Neill said: “When I was looking at him in the paddock, I was thinking ‘what are we doing here?’ because he’s a shelly little horse. But he’s obviously got an engine and I was very pleased with that.

“It’s hard to know with a four-runner race, but he did it really sweetly at Carlisle as well. He doesn’t show you up at home or anything like that but when he gets down here, he’s obviously a fair horse.

“We’ll see how he is, there’s Liverpool as well. He’s a very shelly horse, so we’ll just have to see how he comes out of it. He did look good, though.”



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Kelso ‘perfect timing’ for National fancy Monbeg Genius

Jonjo O’Neill views Saturday’s bet365 Premier Chase at Kelso as an ideal stepping-stone to Aintree for his leading Grand National contender Monbeg Genius.

The eight-year-old has not been seen in competitive action since finishing third in the Coral Gold Cup at Newbury in early December, subsequently missing planned engagements in the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow and the Classic Chase at Warwick.

There was concern his season could be curtailed after assets linked to owners Baroness Michelle Mone and her husband Doug Barrowman were made the subject of a restraint order, but the British Horseracing Authority subsequently confirmed Monbeg Genius would not be affected and he is able to travel to the Scottish Borders this weekend as he looks to enhance his National claims.

Jonjo O'Neill has high hopes for Monbeg Genius
Jonjo O’Neill has high hopes for Monbeg Genius (John Walton/PA)

“He’s had a few little issues, nothing serious but they were enough to make us miss the Welsh National and the Classic Chase at Warwick. He’s back on track now and hopefully all goes well,” said O’Neill.

“This looks a nice race for him, the conditions suit and it’s perfect timing with Aintree in mind – and he’s in good form, so we’re as hopeful as we can be.

“It’s a great race and the rest of the card is brilliant, fair play to Kelso for putting on a card like this.”

Monbeg Genius won three of his five starts as a novice over fences last season and also finished third behind Grand National hero Corach Rambler and leading Gold Cup contender Fastorslow in the Ultima Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

He again holds an Ultima entry but appears unlikely to turn up at Prestbury Park in less than a fortnight’s time.

O’Neill added: “He wouldn’t go to Cheltenham now. If everything goes according to plan, it will be straight to Aintree. He’s been left in just in case he tips up early or something on Saturday.”

It is 14 years since the Jackdaws Castle handler claimed Grand National glory with Don’t Push It, who memorably provided perennial champion jockey Tony McCoy with his first and only victory in the race.

O’Neill feels Monbeg Genius ticks plenty of boxes in terms of the world’s most famous steeplechase, even if his stamina needs to be taken on trust.

He said: “You can’t be confident a horse is ever going to stay the National trip until they try it, because there’s no other race like it, but he’s the type to do it if there is one. He’s a grand, simple horse, who just gallops and jumps.

“He might get to the Melling Road and run out of air, as they say, but you take your chance.

“He’s a different type to Don’t Push It, he had a touch of class, whereas this lad is a grand, honest to God horse who just might lack a bit of class, but what he lacks in class, he puts in through energy and he jumps well. You need a good horse now to win the National.

“We were disappointed when he didn’t win the Ultima last year, but it didn’t work out too bad did it!”

The admirable Aye Right is shooting for Kelso glory
The admirable Aye Right is shooting for Kelso glory (PA)

Monbeg Genius’ rivals include the admirable veteran Aye Right, trained in partnership by Harriet Graham and Gary Rutherford.

The 11-year-old has been placed on each of his three starts so far this term and another bold bid is anticipated from his connections.

“He’s in good form and he likes Kelso. It’s not quite level weights, but he’s much better off at the weights against other horses than he normally is, so it will be interesting,” said Graham.

“I’m quite excited about it, no doubt there’ll still be one too good for us – there’s always something!

“I think he has only run two bad races and it’s fairly obvious he likes to dominate the race and make a good pace. We won’t be changing anything on Saturday, as we’ve tried other things like holding up out the back and he does not have much speed at the end of a race, but is fairly relentless through it.”

Thunder Rock represents Olly Murphy
Thunder Rock represents Olly Murphy (John Walton/PA)

Nick Alexander saddles his five-time course winner Elvis Mail, while Olly Murphy is looking forward to giving Thunder Rock another opportunity to prove his stamina over this three-mile distance.

He said: “I’m not so sure he stays three miles, but we want to give it one last go, hopefully on a bit of nicer ground in a smallish field.

“He’ll be dropped in and ridden to run well. If he stays the trip, I think he’ll run well and he’s overpriced, but we’re kind of having a go more so than knowing he’ll definitely stay.

“The way he finishes off over two-and-a-half, you’d think he definitely would stay the trip, but I don’t think he has the couple of times we’ve tried thus far. Maybe he’s a year older and a year stronger and maybe he might do now, and I don’t think the ground is going to be too bad up there.”

Minella Drama (Donald McCain), La Renommee (Dr Richard Newland and Jamie Insole) and Cooper’s Cross (Stuart Coltherd) complete the field.



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O’Neill team backing Crebilly to be a Plate smasher

Hopes are high in the Jonjo O’Neill camp that Crebilly can provide the Jackdaws Castle yard with a first Cheltenham Festival winner since Sky Pirate in 2021.

O’Neill has trained 27 winners at the showpiece meeting in all and sits fifth on the list of current trainers bidding for more.

There was a time that O’Neill rarely left empty handed and as recently as 2014 he enjoyed a treble when Taquin Du Seuil, More Of That and Holywell were all victorious.

Crebilly is ante-post favourite for the TrustATrader Plate Handicap Chase having comfortably accounted for Tahmuras last time out, while he gained valuable Cheltenham experience with two runs at Prestbury Park earlier in the season. In the first of those he fell two out when upsides Ginny’s Destiny, who is a strong fancy for the Grade One Turners Novices’ Chase.

“We were very happy with the way he was running first time out this season but unfortunately he fell,” said O’Neill’s son and assistant, AJ.

“It wasn’t a reflection on his jumping, he’d actually jumped very well but he just crumpled on landing really.

“He wasn’t quite as fluent the next day (fourth) with his jumping, but when he won the other day he showed a bit more like we were hoping to see first and second time.

“Hopefully he’ll go well in the Plate and we’re happy with him.”

Springwell Bay looks to have a solid chance in the Pertemps
Springwell Bay looks to have a solid chance in the Pertemps (Nigel French/PA)

Another live chance for the yard is Springwell Bay in the Pertemps Final, having qualified when second at Musselburgh last time out.

“We were hoping for an indication of which way to go with him when he ran at Cheltenham when heavy ground and top-weight probably just got the better of him,” said O’Neill.

“We felt if he was good enough for the Stayers’ Hurdle he’d have been good enough to take on those conditions.

“Since stepping him up in trip he hasn’t won, but he was second the last day and probably showed a bit more of what we were looking for and it showed he probably does get the trip. Hopefully it doesn’t get too testing.”

Johnnywho (left) found the trip too sharp last time out
Johnnywho (left) found the trip too sharp last time out (David Davies/PA)

Johnnywho has run two solid races in graded company since winning first time out over hurdles and holds each-way claims in the Albert Bartlett.

“Johnnywho stayed very well at Newbury, he hit a bit of a flat spot before staying on strongly in the Challow,” said O’Neill.

“We hoped he’d run well at Cheltenham the last day but he got a bit outpaced over that trip (fourth to Gidleigh Park) so stepping him up in trip looked the logical thing to do.

“He’s yet to prove it, but we were very happy as the ground was very testing at Newbury. Off the back of that we’d be hopeful.”



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Monbeg Genius to test National claims at Kelso

Jonjo O’Neill has pencilled in a trip to Kelso for leading Randox Grand National contender Monbeg Genius.

The British Horseracing Authority confirmed on Friday the gelding would be permitted to run as he will not be affected by a restraint order placed on the assets of owners Baroness Michelle Mone and her husband Doug Barrowman.

Monbeg Genius, who carries the Barrowman Racing silks, was last seen finishing third in the Coral Gold Cup back in December, with a setback scuppering any plans for a run subsequently.

However, O’Neill reports his charge to be nearing a return, with the bet365 Premier Chase at Kelso on March 2 – plus a possible Cheltenham Festival stop – under consideration en route to Aintree in April.

“He was always going to run as far as I was concerned and no one told me or him!” said O’Neill.

Trainer Jonjo O’Neill has his eyes fixed on Aintree with Monbeg Genius
Trainer Jonjo O’Neill has his eyes fixed on Aintree with Monbeg Genius (John Walton/PA)

“He might go to Kelso for the Listed chase and then hopefully he will go for the National – that’s the plan.

“He might go back to the Ultima, but we will see how we get on at Kelso first. That would probably be a bit too close together, but we will see.

“He seems fine in himself at the minute anyway and we will take each race as it comes.

“We will go to Kelso and then take it from there. He’s in good form, jumps well and is a good stayer.”

Monbeg Genius is as low as 14-1 joint-favourite for the Grand National on April 13.



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National hope Monbeg Genius cleared to continue racing

Leading Randox Grand National contender Monbeg Genius will not be affected by a restraint order placed on the assets of owners Baroness Michelle Mone and her husband Doug Barrowman, the British Horseracing Authority has confirmed.

Assets linked to the couple have been frozen, as a National Crime Agency investigation into PPE firm Medpro continues.

According to the Financial Times, about £75million of assets, including a townhouse in Belgravia and an estate on the Isle of Man, have either been frozen or restrained following an application by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

The Jonjo O’Neill-trained Monbeg Genius, officially owned by Barrowman Racing Limited, was third behind Corach Rambler and Fastorslow in the Ultima Handicap at last year’s Cheltenham Festival and was last seen finishing in the same position in the Coral Gold Cup at Newbury in early December.

He has since missed potential outings in the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow and the Classic Chase at Warwick due to a setback.

The BHA said last month it was looking into how a court order would affect the couple’s equine string and they have now been cleared to race.

A statement released by the ruling body on Friday read: “Having been made aware of a restraint order on a number of assets belonging to Michelle Mone and Doug Barrowman, the BHA liaised with relevant parties in order to understand the potential implications this had for their involvement in racing.

“Following these discussions, the BHA can confirm that horses in the ownership of Barrowman Racing Ltd are not affected by the restraint order and are therefore permitted to continue to race.”

O’Neill said last month he hoped Monbeg Genius would come right in time for Aintree, but that he would need a run beforehand to make the cut for the race, which this year will have a reduced field of 34 runners.

His ante-post price for the National on April 13 ranges from 14-1 to 20-1.



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O’Neill retains Aintree hopes for Monbeg Genius

Jonjo O’Neill has not given up hope of getting Monbeg Genius back on track in time to contest the Randox Grand National, despite being forced to miss another big-race engagement at Warwick this weekend.

Last seen finishing third in the in the Coral Gold Cup at Newbury in early December, the eight-year-old is the 14-1 co-favourite with Paddy Power for the Aintree spectacular alongside last year’s first and third, Corach Rambler and Gaillard Du Mesnil.

However, a minor setback led to him not taking up his place as ante-post favourite for the Welsh Grand National over the festive period and he will also miss Saturday’s Wigley Group Classic Handicap Chase.

“He doesn’t run on Saturday, he’s still not right, he’s not recovered,” O’Neill said at Catterick on Thursday.

“He’ll be all right, but I don’t know when he’ll be able to run. He hasn’t done any work, so he won’t be running for a little while I’d say.”

The Jackdaws Castle trainer admits he will need to get another run and potentially another win into his charge to ensure he makes the cut for what will be a 34-runner National for the first time this year.

He added: “He still could be a Grand National horse, it’s a few months away. That is still in the back of our minds obviously, but he needs to come right first. There’s no point running them if they’re not right.

“He will have to run before then (Aintree), he probably needs to win to get into the weights now the field has been cut down.

“If he can’t go there, he could go for the Scottish National or Midlands National or something like that. He has plenty of time, but he’s a horse for those races.”



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O’Neill forced to put plans on hold for Are U Wise To That

Jonjo O’Neill’s Are U Wise To That is having a short spell out of action having picked up a cut when winning at Cheltenham recently.

The six-year-old is the winner of four of just seven races under rules and looked a novice going places at the December meeting.

Raised 5lb for his win to a mark of 130, plans are currently on hold while he recuperates.

“Unfortunately he’s given himself a nasty little gash so he’ll be out for a while,” said O’Neill.

“He will be OK, but just to prevent infections it needed washing out. It shouldn’t take too long if all goes the right way.

“He did everything sweet at Cheltenham and he jumped away grand, hopefully he’ll be a nice horse.”

In the same blue and yellow silks of Michael Geoghegan, Inch House has enjoyed a good first half of the season, winning twice at Newbury.

“He’s going OK. He might develop into one for Ultima. We’ll know better where we are going after his next run,” said O’Neill.

“I’m not sure where that will be as he wouldn’t want the ground bottomless so we’ll see how we go.”

At Newbury on Wednesday Fortunate Man cruised to victory for JP McManus, a much better outcome than when unseating at the third flight on his racecourse debut.

“To be honest I thought he’d run well at Ffos Las as that was an easier race. At Newbury you never know what you might bump into,” said O’Neill.

“The ground was very heavy there and I’d say that might have played into his strengths. It was nice to see him do it anyway.

“I’d say he might be ground dependent, but hopefully he’s a nice horse.”



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Foot abscess scuppers Monbeg’s Welsh National run

Jonjo O’Neill’s ante-post favourite Monbeg Genius has been ruled out of the Coral Welsh National due to a foot abscess.

The chaser had led the market since a fine third in the Coral Gold Cup at Newbury and appeared to have plenty of the required attributes for the Chepstow marathon.

However, his name was not among the 22 who remain in contention for the December 27 showpiece and O’Neill admitted the timing of the foot issue could not be worse.

“He’s got an abscess so he won’t be ready in time, unfortunately,” said O’Neill.

“He did pick up a few cuts at Newbury, but it’s nothing to do with them, they’d all cleared up. If it’s not one thing, it’s another thing.

“It’s very annoying but when they are not right you can’t run them. He’ll be all right but it’s just the wrong time.

“Unfortunately I didn’t tell him he was running!

“We might have a look at the Classic Chase at Warwick or the race at Lingfield (Fleur de Lys Chase). I’m not really thinking to be honest, I just want to get him back.”

O’Neill is still likely to be represented in the race by Iron Bridge, who also holds an entry in Wetherby’s Rowland Meyrick Chase on Boxing Day.

“He’ll go to Chepstow all being well. I put him in at Wetherby because you never know with the weather and one thing or another, but Chepstow was always the plan,” he said.

“He didn’t run great the last day, it was maybe a combination of the trip being a bit sharp on decent ground.

“He seems in good form at home but you’d have liked to get a proper run into him beforehand, it’s a big race. He’s as good as we can have him without another run, so we’ll take our chance.”

Previous winner Iwilldoit tops the weights with Complete Unknown, The Big Breakaway, The Galloping Bear, Chambard and Autonomous Cloud all in contention.

The Jamie Snowden-trained Super Survivor, winner of a novice heat on the Welsh National undercard last year and second on his seasonal bow at Lingfield, is the new 9-2 favourite with the sponsor following Monbeg Genius’ withdrawal.



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Relkeel challenge on the cards for Springwell Bay

Springwell Bay could take a shot at the Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day following his taking victory at the track last month.

Jonjo O’Neill’s six-year-old was a progressive performer over timber last term, winning on three occasions before finishing his campaign in Grade One company at Aintree.

He made his first outing in the handicap ranks on his return to action at the November Meeting, but having obliged favourite backers with a good deal up his sleeve, could be set for an immediate return to a higher calibre of contest.

“He might go to the Relkeel,” said O’Neill.

“He’s in good form at home and ran a nice race there at Cheltenham last time, so hopefully he can improve on that.

“He has had plenty of problems, so you are always just biting your lip a little bit with him. But he has the ability if everything goes according to plan for him, so fingers crossed.”

The Springwell Bay team after winning at Cheltenham
The Springwell Bay team after winning at Cheltenham (Nigel French/PA)

The Jackdaws Castle handler has always held the Gay Smith-owned gelding in high regard and believes the Prestbury Park Grade Two would give a good indication as to Springwell Bay’s credentials in deeper waters.

When asked about him developing into a Graded-level operator, O’Neill added: “That’s what you would hope for and the Relkeel would probably tell you a lot, so that would be one of his options, anyway.”



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Monbeg Genius remains on course for Coral Gold Cup

Jonjo O’Neill has confirmed Monbeg Genius is on course to attempt to give him a second Coral Gold Cup victory next month.

The Jackdaws Castle handler won the Newbury showpiece with Cloth Cap in 2020 and has another leading contender with the progressive seven-year-old, who is a 7-1 ante-post co-favourite for the December contest with the sponsors.

He won three times over the larger obstacles last term, a season that culminated with a gallant third at the Cheltenham Festival in the Ultima Chase behind Grand National winner Corach Rambler.

Monbeg Genius after winning at Chepstow last season
Monbeg Genius after winning at Chepstow last season (PA)

The gelding met a hiccup on his seasonal return at Ascot, when a couple of mid-race errors brought an end to his challenge and he was subsequently pulled up.

However, despite O’Neill preferring to see Monbeg Genius complete in that assignment, the plan remains to head to Newbury in search of a share of the £250,000 prize-fund.

The trainer said: “He will go there as long as the ground is well, and I’m sure it will be soft. He’ll go there and that is the plan.

“Ascot was a shame because I didn’t get a race into him, which was a pity and it would have been nice to get a race into him because you need a race when you are going for those big handicaps.”



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Bay back on form with Ascot verdict

Springwell Bay ran out an easy winner of the Ascot Racecourse Supports Schools Poetry Competition Novices’ Hurdle to get his career back on the right track.

Second in the prestigious Goffs Land Rover Bumper at the Punchestown Festival in 2021, he was subsequently bought for €155,000.

A winner on his first two outings for Jonjo O’Neill, he was beaten into third at Cheltenham in November by John McConnell’s Fennor Cross but looked a different proposition stepped up in trip.

He travelled noticeably strongly in the hands of O’Neill jnr and loomed upsides the favourite Attacca before bursting clear to win by nine lengths.

The trainer said of the 3-1 winner: “He’s been a a little bit difficult, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. When you’ve got patient owners you can take your time.

“He won’t be going to Cheltenham this year. We’ll make sure what he’s like when he gets back, he needs another run. We don’t know what we’ve got yet but we’re hoping he’s nice. He has had little issues, though.

“We’ve always thought he was a nice horse but he hasn’t matured. We fancied him at Cheltenham, but he checked out going to the second last and we were disappointed.

“That’s a big step in the right direction and the extra distance really helped.”

Irish Hill pings the last under Harry Cobden
Irish Hill pings the last under Harry Cobden (Steven Paston/PA)

The Cheltenham Festival could come into the equation for Irish Hill, though, after he justified 100-30 favouritism in the Ascot Racecourse Supports Box4Kids Handicap Hurdle.

Partneredy by Harry Cobden, already on the scoresheet with Oscar Elite in the Reynoldstown, Irish Hill sneaked through on the inside to hit the front two from home and was always doing enough to win by a length and three-quarters from Zoffany Bay, having his first run for 700 days.

Winning trainer Paul Nicholls said: “He could go in either the Coral Cup or the Martin Pipe.

“I thought he won tidily and I’m not sure he was doing a whole lot in front. The third horse (Samarrive) ran a super race too.”



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Run style analysis of a selection of National Hunt trainers

Regular readers will know of my interest in the impact of run style and, in this article, six National Hunt trainers come under the spotlight as I look for running style patterns which might lead to profitable angles, writes Dave Renham. The trainers in question are Paul Nicholls, Nicky Henderson, Jonjo O’Neill, Donald McCain, Venetia Williams and Alan King. I have looked at data between January 1st 2015 and December 31st 2021, seven years in total.

Before I start in earnest, however, a quick recap of running styles for all new readers and how Geegeez can help with understanding them.

The first furlong or so of any race sees each horse take up its early position and soon the horses settle into their racing rhythm. Normally these positions do not change too much for the first part of the race. The position each horse takes early can be matched to a running style - www.geegeez.co.uk has a pace section on its racecards that highlights which running style each horse has taken up early in a race. There are four run style groups, as follows:

Led – horses that take the early lead (the front runner). In National Hunt racing you generally get just one front runner, but occasionally there may be two or more horses disputing the early lead;

Prominent – horses that track close behind the leader(s);

Mid Division - horses that take up a more midfield position;

Held Up – horses that are held up near to or at the back of the field.

These running styles are assigned a numerical figure ranging from 4 to 1; Led gets 4, Prominent 3, Mid Division 2 and Held Up 1. Having numbers assigned to runners helps greatly with analysis as you may have seen in previous articles.

 

Run Style Analysis: All races

To begin with, let's take a look at all National Hunt races combined, breaking down the running styles of all horses for each of our six trainers. Connections, most notably the trainers, can clearly have a significant influence on the running style of their horses: most will give instructions to their jockeys before the race telling them how they would prefer the horses to be ridden.

Below, the table shows which percentage of each trainer's runners displayed one of the four running styles. I have included the figure for ALL trainers (1527 trainers combined!) as the 'control':

 

As can be seen there is quite a contrast; both Alan King and Jonjo O’Neill are clearly largely averse to sending their runners into an early lead. In contrast Donald Mc Cain, Venetia Williams and, to a lesser extent, Paul Nicholls seem happy to send a decent proportion of their runners to the front early.

In terms of their success with early leaders / front runners – all of them exceed 20% when it comes to strike rate (see graph below). For the record, 20% is the average winning figure for front runners in all National Hunt races.

 

Henderson and Nicholls have a simply stunning record with front runners – a strike rate for both of pushing 40%. Now I have mentioned before that if as punters we had access to a crystal ball pre-race to see which horse would be taking the early lead, it would be a license to print money. Here are the hypothetical profit/loss figures for the front runners of the six trainers to once again prove that point:

 

Combining all trainers in the list would have yielded an SP profit of £394.91 to £1 level stakes. Now, as we know, predicting which horse is going to take the early lead is far from an exact science. However, with some detailed analysis of the trainers in the race, as well as the horses concerned there will be opportunities to maximise our chances of nailing down the likely front runner.

 

Run Style Analysis: Chases

I have noted in previous pieces that front runners in chases make the biggest profits in terms of National Hunt racing, so let us see how our six trainers perform in these races. Here are their win strike rates with front runners in chases. In the table I have included their All races front running SR% to facilitate comparison:

 

Similar figures for each trainer although Alan King’s figure drop about 5%.

And here are the hypothetical profits from identifying and backing these front runners in chases over the course of the seven years in the sample:

 

All six trainers would have been in profit to SP – a combined profit of £350.38 to £1 level stakes indicates why chases are so ‘front runner’ friendly.

I have also looked at the percentage of their runners which displayed a front running style in chases – as with the All Race data I shared earlier, two trainers (King and O’Neill) are far less likely to send their charges to the front early:

 

It still staggers me every time I see trainers that send a low percentage of their runners to the front early. Just one in twelve of Jonjo O’Neill’s runners goes into an early lead in a chase. However, when they do, they win nearly 25% of the time (one race in four). Compare this to his record with hold up horses in chases. Nearly 45% of all Jonjo O’Neill’s runners in chases are held up early – but just 11% go onto win. It’s nuts! [For all that there might be other reasons for holding certain horses up on some occasions - Ed.]

Hold up horses do not perform well in chases either – to illustrate this here are the chase records of the six trainers with their hold up runners:

 

The summary on hold up horses is low strike rates and huge losses all round. This group will, of course, include a subset of no-hopers though, in relation to such high profile trainers, there will be fewer of these than for most other handlers.

 

Run Style Analysis: Hurdle races

Generally speaking, hurdle races do not offer as strong a front running edge as chases, but it is still preferable to lead early compared with other running styles.

With that in mind, let us review the hypothetical profits from our trainers' front runners in hurdle races:

 

Some good strike rates for Nicholls, Henderson and King, but not the wall to wall profits seen in the chases analysis.

It is noticeable that, as a whole, the six trainers send out a smaller proportion of front runners in hurdle races as compared to chases. This will be in part due to typically smaller field sizes in chases then in hurdles, but that doesn't fully account for the differentials. The graph below illustrates:

 

Alan King has sent just less than 4% of his hurdlers into an early lead despite these runners scoring 35% of the time. As a comparison, his held up runners (which account for 37% of all King's hurdlers) won just 13% of the time.

 

Run Style Analysis: Full Summary

To conclude, I'd like to share the individual trainer win strike rate data across all four running styles in different race types. I have included National Hunt flat races, too. These races do not give front runners as strong an edge although they still perform better than any of the other three running styles.

The table below gives a very clear picture as to why run style is so important. It shows the significant edge front runners have overall; it also shows that prominent runners perform far better than horses that race mid division or are held up.

 - Dave Renham

 



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