Jonjo O’Neill is, of course, very proud that his son managed to win a big race on Saturday, aboard Big Time Dancer in Kempton’s Lanzarote. But he is also a veteran of the weighing room of the 1970s, which was full of tough men, so he is unsurprisingly hard to impress and he doesn’t gush.
When I asked him on Sunday for his first reaction to the race, which he watched from his Jackdaws Castle base, he said: “I thought I could have ridden him meself.” It’s great fun, talking to Jonjo on the phone, when you can practically hear him smiling.
“Obviously, Jennie Candlish has done a great job with the horse and he jumped well and travelled well all the way through the race. And he had him in the right place at the right time. You’ve got to be cool and sensible and he did all that was asked of him. But he had the partner to help him.
“It’s lovely to see him ride winners and do it right instead of making a mess of it. It all went right.”
Jonjo is genuinely pleased for his son but he is also clear that he let him make his own decisions and never propelled him towards the weighing room, nor sugar-coated expectations of what Jonjo Jr might find there. “All I said to my two boys was, do whatever you enjoy doing most and you’ll be successful at it because you’ll always put in that 10% extra.
“But I’ve always told them it’s a very, very frustrating game. You can do everything right in this game and it can still bite you.
“It’s the greatest game in the world, as far as I’m concerned. But it’s how it all works out for you. You see some real good lads and they struggle to get rides. They can ride properly but they just don’t get on the right horses.
“I think he’s got quality, I’ll be honest with you. His weight is the only thing, it’s tough for him to do the bottom weights. But he’s well capable of making a good living at it, with luck.”
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