Jonjo O’Neill junior celebrated the biggest winner of his career with victory aboard Big Time Dancer in the Unibet Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle.
The 20-year-old spent most of last year on the sidelines with a back injury and continued to make up for lost time after triumphing in the Listed contest aboard the 16-1 shot.
Son of former champion jockey Jonjo O’Neill, the 5lb claimer bided his time before forging the Jennie Candlish-trained six-year-old on late in the two-mile-five-furlong contest, crossing the line a length and a half clear of Solomon Grey.
The winning rider said: “It is amazing, really, as you are dreaming of these sort of things when you are off for eight months on the sidelines. To ride a nice winner like this means everything.
“I was always confident on him. He travelled really well and jumped unbelievable and every position I put him in he answered my call straight away. He made it very easy for me.”
He added: “I’m trying to be my own self and I want to be a jockey. I take advice and he (O’Neill senior) is very supportive and a big help, but I am my own man – even though I’ve the same name I’m very much different!”
Connections of the 16-1 winner hinted a trip to Aintree could be on the agenda later in the season, should the ground be in his favour.
To ride a nice winner like this means everything
Assistant trainer Alan O’Keeffe said: “It is nice to get a big one like that. Jennie has done a great job with the horse. He has had a few problems, his wind was one.
“We’ve not had a lot of runners recently, as they want proper soft ground, but this one doesn’t. I just thought we rarely get a Lanzarote run on ground like that and he loves that ground.
“He got a great ride and this lad (O’Neill) is going places. It is great for the yard to come down here and get one like that.
“He will have a little break, but his future lies chasing. We won’t give him an overly-long break and we will look at Aintree.”