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Jonjo O'Neill gives Merry King green light for Welsh National

By Gloucestershire Echo  |  Posted: December 22, 2013

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Jonjo O’Neill is considering having more than one runner in the Coral Welsh National on Saturday as he looks to win the race for the third time.

He confirmed that his young chaser Merry King would run in the Chepstow highlight after he stayed on to finish fifth in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury last month.

But he said he remained undecided over whether Alfie Sherrin would attempt to add to wins for former Jackdaws Castle stars Mini Sensation (2002) and Synchronised (2010).

Alfie Sherrin, who provided jockey Richie McLernon with his first Cheltenham Festival success last year, finished fourth last time out at Haydock.

O’Neill, bouyed by a winner at Ascot on Saturday, said: “Merry King will run in the Welsh National, but I’m not sure about Alfie Sherrin as he doesn’t want it too soft.”

The former two-time champion jockey has also shortlisted Storm Survivor for the Welsh National, but he finished sixth to Houblon Des Obeaux at Ascot on Saturday.

O’Neill celebrated his 104th winner of the jumps season after Josies Order scored under AP McCoy in the Foundation Developments Novices’ Handicap Hurdle at Ascot.

Josies Orders has taken time to fulfil his promise but has now won two of his past three races.

He was always going well under McCoy on Saturday and finished best of all to beat Sybarite, trained Nigel Twiston-Davies, by two and a half lengths.

O’Neill said: “He works well at home, but we stuck the blinkers on as he hasn’t always been doing it on the track.

“AP said it was heavy out there and it’s great he has shown the ability he has at home.”

O’Neill’s chances of winning the Ladbrokes World Hurdle at the Festival with More Of That – officially the best horse at Jackdaws Castle – received a boost on Saturday after one of the youngster’s biggest rivals was beaten at Ascot.

At Fishers Cross, who was unbeaten last season, suffered his second defeat in a row after unseating McCoy in the Long Walk Hurdle won by Reve De Sivola.

Trainer Rebecca Curtis must go back to the drawing board with At Fishers Cross, who had also made a costly mistake at Newbury on his previous run.

Reve De Sivola’s trainer Nick Williams will aim the mudlark at the World Hurdle, in which he finished fourth to Solwhit last season.

Reflecting on Saturday’s race, Williams said: “He crashed through a couple of hurdles, but on softer ground like this, he can really let himself down.

“Perhaps if we can also find him an easier race in February, that might be the way to go.”

More Of That emerged as a serious contender for the World Hurdle, which O’Neill won with Iris’s Gift in 2004, after winning the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham.

However, Big Buck’s is the firm favourite to win the race for a fifth time after impressing trainer Paul Nicholls in a racecourse workout last week following long-term injury.

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