Jonjo O’Neill Jr One To Look Out For In Grand National
Mister Malarky wins for @colintizzard in gutsy fashion ✊
Great to see last year’s Reynoldstown winner back in the winners enclosure! 🐎
— Odds Watch (@Odds_Watch) February 22, 2020
Jonjo O’Neill Jr has a long way to go to match the achievements of his father as a jockey as the original Jonjo O’Neill won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1986 on board Dawn Run. The young rider though, is quickly emerging as a huge talent in the sport.
O’Neill Jr has 55 winners so far this season, an impressive tally considering he had to miss a large chunk of action around August and September due to a broken jaw following a fall at Southwell.
Last weekend, O’Neill once again tasted big race success when he partnered Mister Malarky to victory in the Betway Handicap Chase at Kempton. The young rider opted to hit the front at the 14th fence and it was the right move as he was never passed.
Victory on board Native River in Denman Chase
The highlight of the 21-year-old’s season so far is his win on board Native River in the Denman Chase at Newbury. The former Cheltenham Gold Cup winner proved to be too strong for his rivals in the Grade Two contest, scoring by just under three lengths.
Colin Tizzard is a big fan of O’Neill Jr and particularly praised the jockey for the way he handled with the media attention which came leading up to the Denman Chase.
He said: “He is a good young rider and mentally he is a strong young man. He has been put under the microscope a fair bit this week – everyone is hanging on his every word, and he handles it very well.
“We like him, as he has grown up with the ups and downs of racing.”
O’Neill likely to be booked for Grand National ride
Although the jockey bookings for the Grand National will not be known until a lot closer to the 4m2½f contest, O’Neill Jr has a fantastic chance of getting his first ride in the race. Tizzard and O’Neill both have runners in the field which means he could even have a choice of horses.
O’Neill Jr would have grown up knowing how big this race is. His father won the Aintree feature in 2010 as a trainer when Don’t Push It came out on top. That win was extra special as it was Tony McCoy’s first victory in the race.
Rugby looked the most likely path at one stage for O’Neill Jr
O’Neill Jr has been particularly praised for his strength in the saddle. It comes as no surprise then that he was very accomplished at rugby during his time at college.
The open-side flanker played the sport at a decent level and was even considering taking up the game professional at one stage.
Once he got into the saddle though, and started having success, O’Neill Jr proved he made the right decision in his career path.
The youngster won the Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton last year. He also recorded his first Cheltenham Festival success in 2019 on board Early Doors in the Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle.
A first ride in the Grand National in Aintree will be the latest step in his career. Given the confidence he has, he is a jockey who is worth keeping a strong eye on in the race and over the next few years.