We saw many fantastic winning performances over the festive period, but one horse who put in a very good showing, despite not winning was Minella Rocco. This is not his time of year. He will always perform better on the spring ground, where his main target will be the Grand National. However, despite that, he ran a great race to finish fourth in the Grade One Leopardstown Christmas Chase.
Minella Rocco was not expected to win the race and was sent off a 25/1 shot. With horses like Sizing John, Djakadam and Yorkhill in opposition, this was a top class race and one of the many highlights we had over the festive period. With all three of the main protagonists disappointing in different ways, the race was blown wide open with the Gigginstown horse Road To Respect eventually coming out on top after a tussle with Balko Des Flos and Outlander.
The performance to take from the race though was definitely Minella Rocco, who plugged on well at one pace coming up the home straight. The race distance of three miles is certainly too short for him nowadays and the further they go, the more chance he has of being able to land a blow. That brings the Grand National right into the equation and it will also run during the spring where he tends to show much more.
The Jonjo O’Neill trained eight years old was able to keep up with the strong pace over three miles and that is something he is going to encounter during the big race in April, despite it being over a longer distance.
After travelling well he was unable to find the same change of gear as the leaders when they quickened, which led to him finishing 4th. The horses he will go against in the Grand National will not have the same turn of pace and will not go away from him, which should play into his hands and allow his stamina to come into play.
With the big names all beginning to lay down their markers for the Grand National, we look set for another great race in 2018. The favourite for the race remains Blaklion after his impressive Becher Chase victory, but Minella Rocco fans will be thrilled with what they saw from him in the Christmas Chase. That race looks to have been a great warmup for him and he will probably have one more run before heading to the big race at Aintree.
As we stand now, there are many horses in with a chance of being crowned the Grand National winner of 2018, and Minella Rocco is right up there with the best of them. If you have already backed him, or you are going to back him then you should be very pleased with his progression and build up to the main event so far.