As the man who summoned that immortal surge from Dawn Run in 1986, and also won the race on Alverton in 1979, Jonjo O'Neill's testimony counted double as he yesterday saluted the performance of another great horseman in the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup. The trainer of Synchronised acclaimed Tony McCoy as the perfect partner for a horse whose ribs could barely contain his heart.
"The two of them are the same, really," O'Neill said. "They keep finding more, and then more again. They're made for each other."
O'Neill was clear that training a Gold Cup winner exceeded the satisfactions of his first vocation. "If you cock up as a jockey, you let yourself down," he said. "If you cock up as a trainer, you let the whole team down. There's far more responsibility – and far more pleasure when you get it right. And getting this horse right has been a massive team effort."
Exactly a year ago, Synchronised was beaten in a staying handicap at Uttoxeter, and this transformation seemed a remote prospect even after his breakthrough success at the Leopardstown Christmas meeting.
"He wasn't well at all when he came back," O'Neill said. "He caught a chill and he's not a big, robust horse. He needs minding, and time between races. Everyone in the place put their shoulders to the wheel and it was really only in the last few days that he really came to himself. He was like a flower that finally bloomed."
O'Neill stressed that his lack of stature gave Synchronised an ungainly technique, and marvelled that McCoy had been able to build and sustain his momentum.
"He doesn't look like a Gold Cup horse," McCoy conceded. "You can't ride him like a big scopey chaser. I was just getting from one side to the other as quickly as I could and it wasn't always pretty. I was never going that well – but never in a position I couldn't win from."
McCoy admitted that he had initially doubted whether Synchronised's form was good enough. "But on the day you have to believe," he said. "You have to be a dreamer. I always think when you line up for a race you start with a blank canvas and any horse can win. And I said to the boss this morning that I thought it was going to happen today."
The champion jockey reiterated his view that neither O'Neill nor their mutual patron, JP McManus, are properly understood – and urged other investors to support the stable.
"Jonjo comes here every year and gets results," he said. "He never gets the credit he deserves. People think Jackdaws Castle is a closed shop, only for JP and Derrick Smith and the like – but that's not the case. He's an amazing man, and brilliant to ride for. And JP is an out-and-out racing fan who just loves his sport and horses so much.
"It's nothing to do with betting or anything like that. He's just as interested when I ride at Plumpton on a Monday as the Cheltenham Gold Cup. I'm just delighted for him – and so lucky to ride for such nice people."Reuse content