Jonjo O’Neill was encouraged by Cloth Cap’s return to action at Cheltenham – and all roads now lead back to Newbury and a defence of his Ladbrokes Trophy title.
The nine-year-old was sent off 11-2 favourite to give the late Trevor Hemmings a fourth Grand National in April – but it was discovered he had a respiratory problem there, and Tom Scudamore pulled him up.
Having had a breathing operation in the off-season, Cloth Cap returned at Cheltenham and jumped with all his old elan at the head of affairs before tiring into fourth behind Gordon Elliott’s Definite Plan.
“I was delighted with him – he ran a lovely race,” said O’Neill.
“Hopefully he’s OK – and then we’ll have another crack at the Ladbrokes Trophy, I would imagine. That was certainly the plan when he came in, and I don’t see any reason to change it.
“When you have a horse with his rating (154) the races pick themselves really, then hopefully he’ll go back for another crack at the National if it all works – but that’s a long way off.
“He showed all his old enthusiasm. He ran lovely, Tom was pleased with him – and he jumped well bar one mistake.
“He’s just not as well handicapped this year, but Newbury’s the plan.”