Like father like son: Jonjo O'Neill jnr lands another big one with Copperhead

Jonjo O'Neill jnr proved a chip off the old block when forty years after his father landed the Reynoldstown Novices' Chase on Little Owl at Ascot on Saturday, the rising star of the weighing room did exactly the same aboard Copperhead.

Just a week ago the 22-year-old was still waiting for a first win at Graded level but having put that right on Cheltenham Gold Cup-bound Native River at Newbury the previous weekend, the young rider added a second and in fine style, pulling 17-lengths clear of runner-up Two For Gold as Copperhead set up a tilt at the Cheltenham Festival next month.

"Dad told me about Little Owl this morning," said O'Neill. "It's been a brilliant week. The Tizzards have been very good to me and it's just important the horses are winning, which they are."

One race Jonjo O'Neill snr failed to win in an illustrious career in the saddle was the Grand National but his son may have found a horse with the right credentials for Aintree in the future as, bar a sloppy leap at the last, he put in a fine round of jumping.  

"He jumped, travelled and loved the ground," said the winning rider. "He's going to be even better next year when he fills out but he jumps for fun.

"He was just doing it at half-speed and is a proper sort of Grand National horse for next year."

Before then connections have a choice between the RSA Insurance Novices' Chase or the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham next month, a decision that will not be rushed.

"Originally we thought he was a handicapper but this is a proper trial for the RSA and the National Hunt Chase, so we'll have to really think about that," said winning trainer Colin Tizzard, not disguising his surprise at the winning performance.  

"The jockey situation is always a bit difficult in the National Hunt Chase because you need the best amateur available, and he's only six.

"He's only just getting there and the RSA is an option now. I was just chuffed how he came away from three out and the next thing you knew he was ten lengths up. It was lovely."

Paddy Power cut the winner to 10-1 (from 14) for the RSA and 5-1 (from 14) for the National Hunt Chase and Tizzard added: "It's something we can think about in the next few weeks. He's just progressed and progressed and he finished strongly today." 

There was a sad postscript to the race, with trainer Alan King reporting Alsa Mix to have suffered a suspected fatal heart attack when falling at the eleventh fence.