O'Neill's raiders can claim carlisle spoils
When Carlisle was Jonjo O'Neill's local course before he moved south to Jackdaws Castle from Cumbria in 2001, few could better his strike-rate around the testing circuit.
His raids are less frequent these days, but he has still sent out 10 winners from 55 runners in five years, and he saddles three representatives there tomorrow.
Well Hello There may have been found a soft enough option in the novice hurdle, but the JP McManus-owned Oscar gelding has looked pretty ordinary in two starts to date. Sonowyouno and Teeming Rain, O'Neill's other northern raiders, appeal more.
Despite winning twice over flights last autumn, Sonowyouno never really progressed over hurdles in the spring, and he hardly rose a gallop on his chasing debut at Towcester at the beginning of October. However, the conditions on that occasion didn't present nearly enough of a test for the six-year-old.
When he later lined out at tomorrow's venue on testing going, he proved a revelation, racing keenly and jumping with real enthusiasm to comfortably beat a subsequent winner. Tomorrow, there will be an even greater emphasis on stamina as he steps up to two and a half miles, a trip over which he posted his most impressive hurdling performance a year ago.
Ferdy Murphy's Catch Bob is probably the selection's biggest danger. Graham Lee's mount looked one to keep on side when second at Sedgefield last time, but may need better ground than he will encounter tomorrow to be seen at his best.
Teeming Rain, which tackles the three-mile handicap chase, will also relish the slow ground and stiff uphill finish. A dour stayer that does little more than jump efficiently while plodding away at one pace, the 11-year-old has won twice at Exeter in recent times, a course with an equally challenging incline to the winning post.
Last seen when successful at the southern track in March, Teeming Rain races off an eight-pound higher mark now. Given his age then, he will need to be at the top his game to score off such an inflated mark, but you suspect O'Neill wouldn't be taking him so far from home if he didn't believe he would be up to the challenge.