A huge name in the world of racing, who has had success as both a jockey and trainer, Jonjo O’Neill has done pretty much everything in the sport over the years. From riding 900 winners as a jockey to winning multiple top-quality races as a trainer afterwards.
Born on April 13th, 1952, O’Neill has had chances to win the Grand National as both a trainer and jockey. During his riding days, he was unsuccessful in eight attempts and never actually managed to complete the course while riding.
There was a glimmer of success as a trainer, though, with O’Neill landing this race in 2010 with the horse Don’t Push It. For years before, he tried to win the race and had the assistance of Tony McCoy in the saddle to steer his runner’s home. Finally, the pair won the Grand National in 2010, so far the only race victory of O’Neill’s career.
Jonjo O’Neill Grand National Wins
- 2010 - Don't Push It ridden by Tony McCoy
First Grand National Winner
The 2010 Grand National gave Jonjo O’Neill his first success in the race, this came when he trained Don’t Push It to victory. The achievement for O’Neill was a little overshadowed by the fact that Tony McCoy rode the horse and won his first Grand National title too.
McCoy was riding in the race for the 15th attempt, and after a lot of bad luck, McCoy finally got his National winner, which was celebrated wildly in the winner’s enclosure. O’Neill was part of this, but while the horse and trainer usually get their fair share of the celebrations, this day was all about McCoy.
Given the relationship between the two, it seemed fitting that O’Neill would provide McCoy with his winner in the race, the only one he would have during his career.
As for the contest itself, Don’t Push It was trained to the minute and had enough stamina in reserves to kick clear up the run in and win with relative each in the end, with a winning distance of five lengths.
The horse would return to Aintree 12 months later in a bid to win the race again. He finished third on the day, giving McCoy another great spin around the big fences, despite carrying a little too much weight after his previous race win.
Connections with Tony McCoy and JP McManus
When you think of Jonjo O’Neill, it is impossible not to think about his jockey Tony McCoy and his biggest owner, JP McManus. The trio combined on multiple occasions, from low-grade midweek racing around the UK to the biggest races on the calendar, success was never too far away.
When you saw a British-trained runner with the famous green and gold silks, the chances are O’Neill trained it, and more often than not, it was ridden by McCoy.
Again, given the fact that Don’t Push It was owned by McManus, so these colours were on display, it is another nice feature of the 2010 National win. The three were the frontmen for one of the biggest horse racing operations in the UK during their time together, especially in the early 2000s.
Cheltenham Festival Success
Known for training handicappers who would run in top-quality races, the Cheltenham Festival success that Jonjo O’Neill had was often associated with that type of race. However, a couple of big race wins have also come over the years.
The biggest of these was in the feature race of the Cheltenham Festival, the Cheltenham Gold Cup. In 2012, O’Neill, McCoy and McManus combined with Synchronised to bag the biggest race of the meeting, thanks to their runner’s strong staying performance.
Elsewhere at the festival, Albertas Run won the Ryanair Chase in both 2010 and 2011 for the yard, this time owned by Trevor Hemmings. Elsewhere, handicaps at the festival is where O’Neill was best known for striking with his runners.
Life as a Jockey
With a strong training career under his belt, it is worth remembering Jonjo O’Neill’s success as a jockey. He rode more than 900 winners during his riding career, giving him the racing knowledge needed to go into training.
Those wins included riding some big names to victory. Perhaps the best of those was Dawn Run. This horse, with O’Neill on board in both races, completed the unique Cheltenham Festival double of winning the Champion Hurdle and the Cheltenham Gold Cup, two races which are the complete opposite of each other.
Dawn Run’s 1986 Gold Cup win was the second time O’Neill had won the race. He also won the race in 1979 with Alverton. He rode eight times in the Grand National without success, and not only that, but O’Neill never managed to complete the course.
Famous Horses Trained by Jonjo O’Neill
Here are some of the bigger names trained by Jonjo O’Neill during his career.
Don’t Push It