More Of That could follow Coneygree’s path after Cheltenham win
Jonjo O’Neill wouldn’t be afraid of entering novice in next March’s Gold Cup
More Of That ridden by Barry Geraghty clears the last fence before going on to win at Cheltenham. Photograph: PA
More Of That could potentially follow in the hoofprints of Coneygree after maintaining his unbeaten record at Cheltenham when making it two wins from as many starts over fences in the Raymond Mould Memorial Novices’ Chase.
Coneygree won the Gold Cup in March as a novice – the first for 41 years after Captain Christy in 1974 – and Jonjo O’Neill was not ruling out a crack at the big one after this ultimately straightforward 13-length triumph.
Although faced with just the two opponents, the once-beaten 2014 Ladbrokes World Hurdle hero was forced to get relatively serious in order to back up his debut chasing success last month.
Matching strides with Sametegal for much of the two-mile-five-furlong prize it was only after the third-last where the winner started to assert.
Despite measuring the final two fences well, the 1-3 favourite needed to be given a reminder by Barry Geraghty before finally making his class tell. Sametegal was the only other finisher, with Padge a faller.
Paddy Power left More Of That unchanged at 6-1 for the RSA Chase but inserted him at 33-1 for the Gold Cup. William Hill are just 14-1 for the showpiece event in March.
And it seems O’Neill could be open to the idea of a tilt at the blue riband.
He said: “We would have to talk to the boys, but I would not be afraid to stick him in the Gold Cup.
“I’m very happy and he did everything well. That might be it until Cheltenham, but we will see what is around for him. He won’t be over-raced, we will just give him a bit of experience and see.”
On the subject of his best trip, the Jackdaws Castle handler said: “He has plenty of pace for two and a half miles and his full-brother was a two-miler. He is one of those horses that keeps plenty for himself and does not over do the job. He could go either way.”
Old Guard continued his progress when springing a minor surprise in the StanJames.com International Hurdle at Cheltenham.
After winning two handicaps on the course this season, the Paul Nicholls-trained four-year-old took the leap up to Grade Two company in his stride.
Peace And Co, last season’s unbeaten Triumph Hurdle hero, faded in the closing stages after running far too free and pulling his way to the front after two flights. The 4-5 favourite was well beaten in the end.
That left Old Guard (7-1), Hargam and Sempre Medici to fight out the finish with the first-named battling on valiantly for Sam Twiston-Davies.
He proved a length too strong for Willie Mullins’ Irish raider Sempre Medici at the line.
Twiston-Davies, winning his third International in a row after two victories with The New One, said: “He’s coming up through the ranks and he’s progressing well.
“He travelled very well down to the last and when I asked him for everything after it he was very tough.
“He has all the right attributes, and he stays very well, which you need to do to win a Champion Hurdle.”
Sceau Royal took another significant step forward after posting a battling success in the JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial.
After being stripped of victory on his British debut before being caught on the line at Wetherby second time out, the Alan King-trained three-year-old made it two wins on the bounce when following up his recent win at Warwick.
Travelling smoothly close to rear of the field for much of the race the 7-4 shot moved up stylishly alongside Adrien Du Pont and Leoncavallo approaching the last.
A three-way battle quickly turned into a two-horse race as Leoncavallo saw his unbeaten record over hurdles come to an end when parting company with Aidan Coleman over the final flight.
That left Sceau Royal to exact revenge for his Chepstow defeat at the hands of Adrien Du Pont in the stewards’ room, with a length and three-quarters between the pair at the line.
He was trimmed from 25-1 to 16-1 for the Triumph Hurdle by William Hill, while Paddy Power went 16-1 from 33-1.
King said: “We hoped for that. The horse is really progressing. He was a little bit unlucky earlier in the season when he lost one in the stewards’ room at Chepstow then he was mugged on the line at Wetherby.
“I just felt that the win at Warwick last time out gave him some confidence and certainly in his home work he is progressive.
“Katchit was exceptional, but this horse has got plenty of boot and he doesn’t want to be in front too long.
“Hopefully that puts him in the mix for the Triumph.”
Village Vic ran his rivals ragged as he made the most of his light weight with an all-the-way win in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup.
Title-chasing jockey Richard Johnson’s decision to ride the Philip Hobbs-trained eight-year-old instead of stablemate Champagne West paid off in style and it was the latter who gave him the most to do.
Village Vic (8-1) enjoyed himself in front and the handicap snip, carrying the feather weight of 10st, galloped on resolutely up the hill to beat Champagne West by four and a half lengths.
Unowhatimeanharry (11-10 favourite) completed a hat-trick with a gutsy triumph in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle.
Final Nudge pushed Harry Fry’s progressive seven-year-old all the way from two out but Unowhatimeanharry pulled out extra for Noel Fehily to land the Grade Two spoils by a length and a half.
Net Work Rouge set the pace to the second-last flight, where Fehily made what turned out to be a winning move on Unowhatimeanharry.
Pearls Legend was rewarded for a string of placed efforts when pulling out more to take victory in the Unicoin Group Handicap Chase.
After finishing in the frame on each of his three starts to date this term the eight-year-old finally gained his just reward.
Always close to the pace the John Spearing-trained gelding looked to be a sitting duck over two out with Adam Wedge almost motionless aboard Going Concern.
But when push came to shove for the Evan Williams-trained runner the response was limited, with Pearls Legend digging deep to score by a length.