Jonjo O’Neill’s Sunnyhillboy did his John Smith’s Grand National prospects no harm at all when putting up a brave performance to get the better of another Aintree hopeful Becauseicouldntsee in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival, writes Elliot Slater.
In a race run at a strong gallop throughout the JP McManus-owned gelding was never far from the pace under the experienced amateur jockey Alan Berry, and although he came off the bridle at the top of the hill on the way to the third fence from home, the nine-year-old responded well to the urgings of his rider to go off in pursuit of Becauseicouldntsee, eventually forging through to lead at the last before staying on strongly up the famous Cheltenham hill to record a popular success, having been sent off the well backed 13/2 favourite in the field of 23.
Providing O’Neill and the winning owner with their second success of the showcase meeting, Sunnyhillboy once again proved his ability to stay well having run with tremendous credit last year when third in the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse, and whilst he isn’t the biggest of horses the gelded son of Old Vic certainly seems to operate well over his fences. He will surely be of interest to punters who recall the Aintree success of the same connections just two years ago when they teamed up famously with Don’t Push It to provide the legendary multiple champion jockey Tony McCoy with the one big win that had alluded him up to that point.
Sunnyhillboy is now a top priced 25/1 shot in the Grand National betting odds (from 33’s), with some firms being particularly impressed by the Cheltenham win going just 16/1 about his chance of completing a famous Festival double.