Royal Diamond team salute O'Neill

Connections of Royal Diamond paid tribute to his former trainer Jonjo O’Neill after he completed the transformation from beaten Fakenham hurdler to Classic winner in less than nine months.

Connections of Royal Diamond paid tribute to his former trainer Jonjo O’Neill after he completed the transformation from beaten Fakenham hurdler to Classic winner in less than nine months.

The six-year-old, trained by Tommy Carmody, lifted the Gain Horse Feeds Irish St Leger in a blanket finish at the Curragh on Saturday.

Yet, on New Year’s Day he was trounced 32 lengths into third place in his third and final race over jumps when in the care of O’Neill.

“He’s a pretty special horse and to see him do that was just incredible,” said Tim Jones, racing manager to owner Andrew Tinkler.

“I watched him run in a novice hurdle at Fakenham on New Year’s Day and finish third.

“I spoke to Jonjo afterwards and said the hurdling campaign wasn’t quite working out right and asked him how he felt about us taking him away to run in Ireland on the all-weather over the winter.

“Jonjo was fantastic and thought it would be a good thing and made sure he went over there like a new pin.

“Over he went and Tommy (Carmody) and the team have done a fantastic job, getting him back on an even keel and building his confidence.

“Bit by bit this horse has clawed his way back and here we are with a Classic winner on our hands.”

On future plans, Jones said: “It depends largely on how he comes out of the race and how he is in 10 days’ time. Then he’ll have another piece of work and see how he comes through it.

“He also just had to travel across the road to get to the races on Saturday. It was a tough race but he didn’t have to travel far for it.

“That was main objective and we haven’t looked beyond that.”

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