Big-Price Winner at the Cheltenham Festival? Rocco’s Out for Revenge

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Popular nine-year-old Definitly Red goes into 2018 on the back of a huge win at Aintree, and many punters have him marked down as a horse worth keeping close in preparation for this year’s Grand National at the same track.

The experienced gelding moved his stats to 11 wins and six places from 22 career starts when banking the Many Clouds Chase over three miles around the Merseyside track in mid-December, leaving the chasing pack trailing behind and nearest finisher Cloudy Dream a full seven lengths off the pace.

Followers of the sport with their ear to the ground were delighted to hear trainer Brian Ellison saying they’re keeping their options open concerning Definitly Red for the season ahead, a straight choice between Gold Cup at the Cheltenham Festival in March, or Grand National at Aintree, run on Saturday 14th April this year.

An appearance in the festival looks, at present, to be the most likely outcome, and lovers of a big price will sit up and take note. William Hill has Definitly Red at 40/1, but those keen on an interest shouldn’t be scared off by the odds. Sizing John won the grade one event last year, despite starting at 7/1, and Lord Windermere famously scooped the prize money off a whopping 20/1 in 2014.

In the last ten renewals of the Cheltenham Gold Cup, only four winners started as favourite.

Another at attractive odds is last year’s runner-up Minella Rocco, who was beaten by fewer than three lengths by Sizing John in the 2017 version. The Jonjo O’Neill trained eight-year-old – ridden by Noel Fehily – looked to have left it late, passing beaten runners at the post, but connections will be confident of going one better this time.

The JP McManus-owned star has done little to impress since, ending no closer than fourth in his final three starts of the year, including at Leopardstown in the Christmas Chase behind Road to Respect on December 28th, but he’s in great hands; trainer O’Neill is a previous winner of this race, with Synchronised showing the way home in 2012 by a decent margin.

Minella Rocco, kicking off 2018 with a CV showing three wins and four places from 14 goes, is no stranger to success at Prestbury Park either. As well as that near miss in the feature event last March, he also won the National Hunt Chase Challenge in 2016, disputed over 3m 7f, again going at a big price.

He proved his liking for the Gloucestershire track, beating Native River by 1 ¼ lengths, despite being written off by traders before the start. Jockey Derek O’Connor timed his challenge to perfection, coming from last to first, staying on to grind out the result. Bags of bottle, followers will be keen to see more of the same if he goes.

Whether it be Definitly Red or Minella Rocco that catches your attention, or perhaps another, past renewals of the Cheltenham Gold Cup tell us there’s plenty of joy to be had in aiming for the stars and backing one at a big price.

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