O’Neill harbouring Grand National hopes for Cloth Cap
Jonjo O’Neill hopes Cloth Cap can continue his progression over fences and develop into a contender for next year’s Randox Health Grand National. Having claimed the 2010 renewal of the Aintree marathon with Don’t Push It, O’Neill believes the Trevor Hemmings-owned seven-year-old could be the ideal type to give him a second victory in the race. Cloth Cap showed he has stamina in spades when signing off last season with a respectable third in the Scottish Grand National at Ayr having previously won at Stratford and Catterick. O’Neill said: “He is hopefully going to start at either Chepstow or Wetherby in a couple of weeks. He has come back good and I’m very happy with him. “Obviously Trevor would like him to be a Grand National horse and so would we, but he needs to win a few races to get into that bracket. “We would give him a run in one of those two races, then maybe go to Ascot for the Sodexo Gold Cup. “He is unassuming horse and would never do anything flashy at home, but he is a grand, honest horse. He jumped grand in the Scottish National. ” With most of Cloth Cap’s best form on quicker ground, O’Neill is keen to avoid running him in testing conditions. He added: “I’d say he wants the ground quicker and that would be the only thing we have to keep an eye on through the winter. “Last year they were watering tracks in January and February, so we will have to play it by ear. ” A switch to fences is on the cards for Grade Two-winning hurdler Annie Mc, with O’Neill reporting the five-year-old to have already schooled well over them. He added: “We are going to pop Annie Mc over fences. We have given her one school and she was good. We are looking forward to her going over fences. “She is a grand mare that is pretty straightforward and the owners had a lot of fun with her last season. When you saw her jumping hurdles, you would think she wants fences. “I think I’d be starting her off over two and a half, but she should get three miles though. ” Minella Rocco may no longer be the force of old, but O’Neill believes the 2017 Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up retains plenty of enthusiasm despite failing to complete his final three starts last season. He added: “Minella Rocco is back and we might run him at Cheltenham at the October meeting and see how he goes. “If he doesn’t shape up, we will probably go hunter chasing with him. He loves being in training. ” Although O’Neill has claimed many of the sports biggest prizes both as a jockey and a trainer, he admits saddling Minella Rocco to a first victory since the 2016 National Hunt Chase would be a special moment. He added: “It would be brilliant if we can get him to win again. “He has been a great horse for the yard and to get him back on target would be a bit special for everybody, as the whole yard loves him.”
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