Taquin could add another string to O’Neill’s Betfair Chase bow
Jonjo O’Neill has a potentially very strong hand in the three-mile chase division this season. His Holywell is amongst the ante-post favourites for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, and his Taquin du Seuil is another highly regarded performer who ran well last time out at Wetherby and may join his stable companion in a bid for the Grade 1 Betfair Chase at Haydock on November 22, writes Elliot Slater.
Although he has handled his share of useful hurdlers, it’s probably fair to say that O’Neill – one of the all-time great jump jockeys before turning his hand to training – is primarily regarded as a master of training staying chasers. He’s won most of the major races in the British calendar, including the 2012 Cheltenham Gold Cup with Synchronized, and the 2010 Grand National at Aintree with Don’t Push It. The latter gave champion jockey Tony McCoy his first winner in the ‘world’s greatest steeplechase’ and undoubtedly gave him a significant helping hand on his way to being named ‘BBC Sports Personality of the Year’.
While the majority of O’Neill’s big winners have come in the green and gold colours of his yard’s principal patron, Irish multi-millionaire gambler JP McManus, this term his two leading three-mile chase prospects run in other colours. Holywell, who won a Grade 3 handicap chase at last season’s Cheltenham Festival before stepping up to score by 10 lengths in the Grade 1 Mildmay Novices Chase, runs in the colours of Mrs Gay Smith, who has had a number of smart jumps performers over the years, including the likeable Black Jack Ketchum.
Taquin du Seuil is owned by Martin Broughton and Friends. Broughton, who went so very close to a stunning Breeders’ Cup Classic win with his outstanding Jamie Osborne-trained Toast of New York, has long been a supporter of O’Neill’s and in Taquin du Seuil looks to have a potentially high-class chaser. The seven-year-old joined O’Neill in 2012 having begun his career racing on the Flat in France, and signalled his potential when winning by 15 lengths on his hurdling bow at Uttoxeter under Tony McCoy.
On his second start the gelded son of Voix du Nord found only subsequent Champion Hurdle runner-up My Tent or Yours too good for him in a hot novice hurdle at Ascot, before returning to winning ways with a Grade 2 success at Ascot followed by a nine length victory in the Grade 1 Challow Novices Hurdle at Newbury. After disappointing at the 2013 Cheltenham Festival behind The New One connections called it a day for his hurdles career and began last term as a novice chaser.
Two pleasing wins – including a neck defeat of the high-class Oscar Whisky – got his novice chasing career off to the perfect start last autumn, before a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Racing Post Henry VIII Novice Chase at Sandown. In a fine race a few weeks later, Oscar Whisky gained his revenge on Taquin du Seuil in the Grade 2 Dipper Novices Chase at Cheltenham, but there wasn’t much between the pair of exciting young chasers.
An odds-on win at Haydock in mid-January in a Grade 2 novice chase set O’Neill’s rising star up for the Cheltenham Festival where he produced a tremendous performance on better ground than he had encountered for much of the winter in beating Paul Nicholls’ exciting Uxizandre by three-quarters-of-a-length in a rousing finish to the Grade 1 JLT Novices Chase over two-and-a-half miles.
After a seasonal pipe-opener at Newton Abbot in October when only third of five behind Wonderful charm when clearly in need of the run, Taquin de Seuil put in a much better effort in Wetherby’s Grade 2 Charlie Hall Chase, finishing ahead of the likes of King George VI Chase winner Silviniaco Conti in running second behind the impressive Philip Hobbs-trained Menorah. In a recent interview O’Neill suggested that the Grade 1 Betfair Chase at Haydock will be the next outing for Taquin du Seuil. Indeed, he seemed more keen on running the Wetherby runner-up there than Holywell, who had looked in need of the run when only third in a Carlisle graduation chase the following day.
Versatile with regard to underfoot conditions – O’Neill believes his charge is best when able to run on genuinely soft ground, but he did win at the Cheltenham Festival on a much faster surface – Taquin du Seuil is undoubtedly an exciting prospect for the 2014/15 season and is currently rated an 8/1 chance for the big Haydock race in which he is seeking his first ever win over three miles, and is available to back at 9.4 on Betfair.
A horse who looks more than likely to stay and has a definite touch of class, future top events such as the Cheltenham Gold Cup and even the Grand National could be on the agenda down the line for this talented O’Neill-trained performer.