Unchanged mark sees Minella Rocco’s Cheltenham claims boosted

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Although he couldn’t quite get to the winner Vyta Du Roc in the Reynoldstown Chase at Ascot, no horse was finishing the race better than Minella Rocco.

Having failed to deliver on his hurdles promise in his early runs over fences, the way in which he stormed home under Noel Fehily suggests that Jonjo O’Neill’s charge is being trained to peak at the opportune moment.

Prior to his race in Berkshire, the six-year-old was a 20/1 shot for the Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival, but that price soon went after Saturday.

He was clipped into 12/1 after that excellent performance but the support from punters has continued even further since, forcing him into 8/1 favouritism.

That has more than likely to be down to the fact that handicapper Phil Smith has left the gelding’s mark on 143, something that looks very generous from the man at the BHA.

The Grade 3 handicap that he is likely to take in at Cheltenham is one that O’Neill has done remarkably well with in recent years.

The Jackdaws Castle trainer has won the contest three times in the last seven years, with Holywell in 2014, Alfie Sherrin in 2012, and with AP McCoy delivering what is thought of as one of his best ever rides on Wichita Lineman in 2009.

It would be Barry Geraghty and not ‘The Champ’ who will be on board this time round though, and he too has form in the race, claiming his second success in the race last year on The Druids Nephew.

Two poor runs at Cheltenham earlier in the season must be forgiven, but a look at Minella Rocco’s hurdles form in which he was unbeaten in three starts, and the way he finished last time out, and he must be respected.

The 8/1 could be even shorter come the day as the punters continue to make the most of what could be a very lenient handicap mark for the son of Shirocco before his Prestbury Park return.

All odds and markets correct as of the date of publishing.

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Ben Stones

Ladbrokes News’ equine expert, Ben likes nothing more than studying the form to pick out a winner or two for our readers. A Journalism and Media Studies graduate from the University of Winchester, Ben has previously written for a number of football and racing blogs and websites, as well as contributing to the sports pages of his home-town newspaper.