10 November 2022

McConnell has sights set on more Cheltenham gains

10 November 2022

Bardenstown Lad is set to lead a small but select team for John McConnell into battle as the Irish trainer bids to repeat his October success at Cheltenham on his return to the Cotswolds this weekend.

The County Meath handler enjoyed three winners across two days at Prestbury Park last month, with Seddon, Encanto Bruno and Fennor Cross all striking gold.

McConnell’s first representative at the three-day November meeting is Hereditary Rule, who will be ridden by Daryl Jacob in the SSS Super Alloys Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase.

A winner over fences at Cartmel and over hurdles at Downpatrick on his last two starts, McConnell is hopeful of another bold showing while warning he may not be at peak fitness.

“He got a cut when he won in Downpatrick – it was just in the wrong place and took a long time to heal, so it was a race against time to get him here,” he said.

“If anything he is 98 per cent rather than a 102 per cent, but he’s in good nick and schooled well on Tuesday at the Curragh.

“He’s a great jumper and the ground should be fine, so we’re hopeful.”

McConnell also has just the one runner on Saturday, with Clonguile Way in line for the Celotex Thermaclass Amateur Jockeys’ Handicap Chase, while a three-pronged challenge is planned for Sunday.

The horse McConnell considers his most likely winner is Bardenstown Lad, who won over hurdles at Cheltenham in October of last year and went on to finish third in the Albert Bartlett at the Festival.

He was disappointing on his debut over regulation fences at Listowel in September, but his trainer feels he is in a better place ahead of the mallardjewellers.com Novices’ Chase.

“We’re putting his Listowel run down to the ground – he came back a little bit jarred and didn’t have a cut at his fences at all that day,” said McConnell.

“He’s in much better form now – he’s physically well, he’s schooled well and has won a point-to-point, so he should be a good chaser.

“He has a big engine and if he’s able to jump well on Sunday he should be there or thereabouts.”

McConnell’s squad is completed by aforementioned course winner Fennor Cross, who has his sights raised for the the Sky Bet Supreme Trial, and Notowned in the concluding bumper on the last day.

He said: “It’s obviously a big step up in class for Fennor Cross, but he has taken his October race well and come out of it really well and schooled well the other day.

“We’re happy to take a chance – what else do you do with him? If we didn’t run he’d be taking on horses here in Ireland on probably worse ground and the race on Sunday is probably no stronger than what he would have to run in over here.

“Notowned is going well – we worked him on Wednesday and were very happy with him. He was a little bit keen the last day, but if he settles and drops the bridle he should be competitive.”

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