Can Minella Rocco Replicate its Gold Cup Heorics at Aintree?
Trainer Jonjo O’Neill hasn’t enjoyed a fruitful 2018 so far but he is hoping that Minella Rocco will bring him some joy at Aintree. The 2017 Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up has seemingly lost his way since finishing narrowly behind Sizing John at Prestbury Park and was withdrawn from the iconic contest with this race in mind.
The eight-year-old remains at the head of the weights for the world-famous steeplechase which gets underway at 5:15 pm on April 14th. The four-and-a-quarter-mile feature will see forty stars of UK and Irish jumps racing compete over the iconic fences including Becher’s Brook and the Chair.
The JP McManus-owned horse is fourth in the betting at 16/1 with William Hill and will be fancied by many punters. It fell on its only appearance at the track when taking on former National winner Many Clouds in 2016 – but after coping with the undulations of Cheltenham, the Merseyside course shouldn’t pose too many problems for the National Hunt Chase Cup winner.
Minella Rocco will face stiff competition from the Barry Geraghty-ridden Anibale Fly who will also run in the JP McManus colours. The Tony Martin-trained runner featured in the Timico Gold Cup at Cheltenham and finished a creditable third. He has been raised nine pounds for that run but will race off his old weight of 159lbs here. This is due to the handicapper having confirmed the weights in February and as a result, many feel as though 12/1 represents decent value for this eight-year-old.
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He was last seen at Newbury on his seasonal comeback when racing over two-and-a-half miles and will be taking on the Aintree fences for the first time on April 14th. Reportedly in “great shape”, the 10-year old was sold to Cheveley Park Stud’s David and Patricia Thompson who have enjoyed previous success in this contest with Party Politics back in 1992.
Having been third in the Scottish National, there are very few concerns over stamina, and he should relish the longer trip.