Jonjo O'Neill could have the RSA Chase winner on his hands after More Of That's scintillating win.
The Jonjo O’Neill-trained gelding had confirmed his liking for the home of jump racing when returning from an absence of just 16 days short of a year when jumping fluently and scoring easily from As De Mee at the Paddy Power meeting and confirmed his position as one of the leading lights for the RSA Chase with an exemplary display of jumping that suggests come March he will be the one they all have to beat.
More Of That was settled in a beautiful rhythm from the outset under Barry Geraghty and the way he measured his fences was a joy to behold as he scooted to a 13 length victory from Sametegal. On top of that, he was well alert to put in short one when required and those qualities will be worth spades in the hurly-burly of a championship contest.
As a previous winner of the World Hurdle the class is there to tell and More Of That is now unbeaten in four runs at Cheltenham. The prospect of good ground at the Festival won’t daunt him either and although doubters may point out that there was were only three runners in the two mile five furlongs contest he has shown he is more than effective in a larger field and it is almost certain that we haven’t seen the best of him yet. The fly in the ointment is whether Jonjo will take the Coneygree option of running a novice in the Gold Cup (for which he is going to be given an entry), but next year’s renewal possesses so much strength in depth at present that the easier opportunity of taking on his peers over three miles in the RSA must surely be the logical decision.
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At Navan on Sunday, Willie Mullins produced yet another ante-post favourite for the Festival when Bellshill ran out a scintillating victor of the Grade Two Navan Novice Hurdle.
The winner of the Grade One Champion Bumper at Punchestown in April appears to have taken to hurdling like a duck to water and followed up a maiden victory at Cork in November with a performance that simply smacked of class, as he powered to a 12-length win from Tycoon Prince in the two-and-a-half mile contest.
Mullins has deployed the likes of Boston Bob, Pont Alexandre and Briar Hill to win the Navan event and Bellshill, who was shortened to 8-1 from 12-1 for the Neptune Investment Management Novices Hurdle, is likely to take his next step to Cheltenham glory with a run in the Grade One Lawlors Hotel Novice Hurdle at Naas in early January.
On a lesser note, there looked to be a clutch of future winners on show in the first division of the extended two-mile maiden hurdle at Doncaster on Friday. Star of the show on this occasion was the Alan King-trained Winter Escape, who quickened up nicely to beat Deauville Dancer three-and-three-quarter lengths with Call To Order a length and a half back in third.
Deauville Dancer gave the impression he will come on a ton for the race and will relish a step up to two-and-a-half miles plus, and Call To Order also travelled well on his hurdling bow to suggest he could soon be paying his way – all three look well capable of bringing home the bacon in the coming months.