Cheltenham may beckon again for Rocco

Warwick win was first since 2016 for former Gold Cup runner-up.

  • Sunday 26 January
  • News
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Jonjo O’Neill is considering the next plan of attack with Minella Rocco, following his return to winning ways at Warwick.

Runner-up to Sizing John in the 2017 Cheltenham Gold Cup, having won the National Hunt Chase at the Festival 12 months earlier, the 10-year-old is clearly not the force he once was.

After pulling up in four successive races and then finishing eighth at Ascot in November, O’Neill’s charge looked on the brink of retirement, but he made most of what was a good opportunity on his hunter-chase debut last week.

Minella Rocco will need to run again to qualify for the Foxhunter Chase at Cheltenham in March, while Aintree’s equivalent over the Grand National fences three weeks later is high on the agenda.

O’Neill said: “Minella Rocco came out of the race really well. He has to run again, and win or be second – so if that happens he’ll go to Cheltenham.

“He could go to Wetherby – or he could go to a few places, I’m not sure just yet. There is one (hunter chase) at Wincanton, but he’s not going there – it’ll be Wetherby or one of those (others).

“I hope he can qualify. But if he doesn’t he’ll go to Aintree anyway – that will be the main plan. Going to Cheltenham and Aintree may be a bit close.

“We’ll see nearer the time, but it’s lovely to see him getting his head back in front – because it’s a long time since he won. We’ll have to see how he is operating.”

Plans remain fluid, meanwhile, for Annie Mc – who has impressed in winning her two starts over fences at Wincanton and Wetherby.

“Annie Mc is very good – (but) off the top of my head, I can’t tell you where she’ll go next,” O’Neill added.

“There’s a few races for her – one at Bangor and one at Exeter, I think – so she’ll hopefully go to one of those.”

Cheltenham may beckon again for Rocco
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