Leopardstown test to determine Minella Rocco target

Minella Rocco: a 20-1 shot for the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup

PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos) Leopardstown test to
determine Minella target By Mark Storey 8:00AM 2 FEB 2017

SYNCHRONISED was a stamina-soaked winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup for Jonjo O'Neill, whose Minella Rocco heads for Leopardstown on Sunday week for a test that will decide whether he tries to do the same or target the Randox Health Grand National.

The defeat of Gold Cup favourite Thistlecrack to the tragic Many Clouds has encouraged connections of challengers certain to be staying on up the Cheltenham hill, something Minella Rocco did to winning effect in last season's National Hunt Chase.

Behind him was Native River, now second favourite for the Timico-backed showpiece, giving hope to O'Neill that the seven-year-old, a general 20-1 chance, could emulate Synchronised five years on.

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A faller when in contention behind winner Many Clouds at Aintree in December, Minella Rocco is a top-priced 6-1 for the Stan James Irish Gold Cup, which will determine spring plans.

Frank Berry, racing manager to owner JP McManus, said: "The Gold Cup is wide open but it's still a hard race. He's going to Leopardstown for the Irish Gold Cup and we'll learn a lot more from that. That'll be a big day for him.

"He got a bit tired between the last two at Aintree but was running a good race and should hopefully improve from that. If he puts up a good performance at Leopardstown it'll make it easier to decide if he goes for the Gold Cup or the National."

Aintree possible for More Of That

There are fewer decisions to be made about stablemate More Of That, who is heading for the Grand National, for which he is a top-priced 40-1.

Berry said: "He definitely could go down the National route. He ran reasonably well at Leopardstown [to be sixth in the Lexus] and should come on for the run. We could possibly give him another run before then."

The O'Neill pair are among 110 possibles for the Grand National on April 8, for which The Last Samuri is general 16-1 market leader after ante-post favourite Native River was not entered.

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