Jonjo O’Neill believes a rejuvenated Minella Rocco deserves his place at the Cheltenham Festival.
Winner of the National Hunt Chase in 2016 and second behind Sizing John in the Gold Cup the following year, the JP McManus-owned gelding had been in the wilderness since.
As a last throw of the dice, O’Neill sent him hunter chasing and he won at the first time of asking at Warwick, although he was slightly fortunate as the leader, Bob And Co, took an extremely keen hold and was pulled up due to his jockey getting cramp.
Next time Minella Rocco went to Wetherby for a clash with current champion Hazel Hill, winning by a length and a half as his rival jumped continuously out to his right.
“It’s great to see him do well. Obviously it’s lovely when they get their confidence back,” said O’Neill.
“Being honest, he’s been lucky twice, but he’ll go to Cheltenham now.
“He deserves it to be fair – he’s qualified and however lucky he’s been, he can only beat what’s there.
“It’s great to see him happy again, so we’ll see how he gets on.”