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Jonjo's mastery of top handicaps gives him a Supreme contender too

22-February-2021 9:25
in General
by Peter McNeile

The naming of racehorses is an art in itself. Many are named after place names: countries or locations which have given pleasure to the ownners, or show the provenance of the breeding. But choosing a name is important. After all, you don't want to win a big race with a horse with a dreadful name. I once had a chaser called Great Expectations. The form guide from the ruthless Mackenzie & Selby on its amateur rider was "Why the Dickins do they bother?"

Soaring Glory. Now that's a majestic name to choose, with connotations of heavenly splendour. And so it proved yesterday at Newbury's rescheduled Super Saturday, when the seven year old Irish-bred galloped to victory in the UK's most valuable handicap hurdle, the Betfair Hurdle for the Jonjo O'Neill team, under Jonjo Jnr.

Winner of two bumpers and a Class 4 Novices Hurdle previously, Soaring Glory seemed unfazed by the quality of opposition in this immensely competitive race, was in touch throughout, took it up at the last, and stuck on handsomely to win by 2l from Fifty Ball and Edwardstone. This is now the ninth time in recent years that this race has been won by a novice, and a quickfire follow up in the Supreme Novices doesn't look out of the question.

Soaring Glory (maroon colours) beats Fifty Ball (rhs) and Edwardstone

Trainer Jonjo O'Neill is never the most effusive after an interview. In fact, he is discreet to the point of being boring! Charming in private, he rarely lets his guard down in public but did let it be known Soaring Glory belied his name by being a slow learner jumping. I guess he's forgiven now. 

And Jonjo, who has always professed Cheltenham to be his favourite course, must be considering Newbury as a contender for that role. That's twice in three months he's plundered Newbury's richest prize for the Jackdaws team after Cloth Cap won the Ladbrokes Trophy. He is an acknowledged master at preparing a horse for a target.

Team O'Neill has often remarked that it can be difficult competing with the top dollars paid by the big yards of Britain. Spare your tears. Jackdaws seems to be doing quite well, this being the 59th winner of the term, and with prize money approaching £700k. As always, Jonjo is a master at managing expectations. 

Meanwhile, the weekend's news did not all belong to Temple Guiting. Winchcombe based Ryan Potter is a more familiar face on the Point-to-Point scene. In fact, before this season, he'd only had 25 runners under Rules in the past five years. Change can necessarily be a good thing though. This small yard finds a single winner hard enough to come by but lo and behold: Sunday brought a pair! Both divisions of Uttoxeter's handicap chase fell to the yard through Light Flickr and Eaton Miller doubling his score for the season.

The first can't have been a total shock to the yard. After all he was a close second in a similar calibre race at Warwick in mid-January, and the change of scene from Tom Symonds over the summer appears to have worked some magic for Eaton Miller too, whose three runs this winter have not seen him out of the frame. 

Everyone loves a David and Goliath story, and here's one right on our doorstep.

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