OK Corral Impresses and All Roads Lead to Cheltenham

It is next stop Cheltenham for OK Corral who won the listed novice chase at Warwick on Saturday to book his place at the festival in March. This wa just his second start over the bigger obstacles and he put in a much better round of jumping than we saw on his chase debut, leaving us all excited at the prospect of seeing him around Cheltenham in two months time.

There was a lot of talk about this horse before the race on Saturday and that was all down to the jockey booking. Nicky Henderson and JP McManus decided to bring the McManus retained amateur jockey Derek O’Connor over from Ireland for the ride, his only one of the trip, which is why it was so important. The four mile novice chase at the Cheltenham Festival is confined to amateur riders only, leading many including me to believe that this move was to prepare O’Connor for the ride and let him sit on the horse before the festival. They wouldn’t do this for any horse, only one they strongly fancied so it looked as though it was an important and vital festival clue when it was announced on Friday.

Immediately after the jockey booking being announced, OK Corral was cut for the national hunt chase without stepping foot on the track, and after winning on Saturday he was cut even further. On Friday morning before we knew anything about the booking of O’Connor, the horse was 16/1 for the four miler and after winning on Saturday afternoon he was the clear 4/1 favourite, a huge move in just over 24 hours.

The race on Saturday was over three miles and the further they went, the better OK Corral looked, which is a positive for the four miler. We won’t know if he will stay until the day of the race, but all the signs so far are good, and the yard must also think that.

The move to put OK Corral in the four miler could also be seen as a boost to the festival hopes of Santini, who looks sure to be Nicky Henderson’s top challenger in the RSA Chase. He must clearly think a lot of that horse to put OK Corral elsewhere, so look out for Santini shortening in the betting for the RSA Chase over the coming days.

We saw a very good performance from OK Corral on Saturday, and now all roads point to the Cheltenham Festival in March for this horse, more than likely to the four mile novice chase.