Over The Line’s roving reporter Sarah O’Flaherty is at Cheltenham for Paddypower. Here’s her first update from the Festival.
I was up and at ’em early this morning with the legendary Jonjo O’Neill at Jackdaws Castle. While most of the Press gang concerned themselves with the miniature black and white puddings, champagne and mulled wine, I wanted to get the lowdown on Johnjo’s runners today.
“It’s the most exciting week of the year for us, Sarah,” said Jonjo who rode Dawn Run in 1986 to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Johnjo believes that Darlan will take “all the beating” in today’s opener, the Supreme Novices Hurdle at 1.30pm, but warns it’s a decent race where plenty will fancy their chances.
He said he’s blessed to have a fantastic relationship with owner JP McManus and jockey AP McCoy. McManus bought Colour Squadron last Wednesday and while he’s trained by Philip Hobbs, O’Neill reported that JP is thrilled with him.
In the Arkle, while Sprinter Sacre is all the rage, Jonjo feels Al Ferof is the one to watch. Johnjo felt Quantatativeeasing could go close in the 2.40. JP’s body language on Racing UK seemed to indicate his runner might struggle under top-weight.
Personally, I’m already sweet on David Pipe’s The Package from my audio interview the other day at Power Tower and he’s been well backed this morning already. And while Jonjo says he’s not usually a tipping man, he wouldn’t put Paddy Power punters off a Sprinter Sacre / Hurricane Fly double.