Jonbon route to Cheltenham uncertain

Nicky Henderson remains open-minded on where the unbeaten Jonbon will be seen before Cheltenham.

A full-brother to the mighty Douvan, the JP McManus-owned five-year-old cost £570,000 at the sales – and has so far looked value for money, even at that hefty price tag.

His debut under rules came in a bumper at Newbury in March and he impressed first time out over hurdles back at the Berkshire circuit last month.

A much sterner test appeared to await at Ascot last week in the Kennel Gate Novices’ Hurdle, but he came through that Grade Two assignment with flying colours to cement his position at the top of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle market.

Nicky Henderson and wife Sophie with Jonbon
Nicky Henderson and wife Sophie with Jonbon (Steven Paston/PA)

Next in the Festival betting is stablemate Constitution Hill, who made a real splash at Sandown earlier this month. But while his next target has been identified, a race is not proving as easy to find for Jonbon.

Henderson said: “I think Constitution Hill will go back to Sandown for the Tolworth, he’s a two-miler. I’ve no idea with Jonbon, he’ll only want one run (before Cheltenham). It isn’t easy, I have had a look – you go through January and even at Cheltenham in January there’s no two-mile trial.

“It’s not obvious, there’s nothing really obvious at the end of January, beginning of February sort of period. That’s where I’d like a run. There are no doubt races you can run in, but there’s also places I wouldn’t want to go with him. He’s come out of the race really well.”

Balco Coastal is another to have taken the eye over two miles this season for Seven Barrows, and he heads to Ludlow on Wednesday.

“The owners live up there and I think it will do the horse good to have one more,” Henderson said.

Constitution Hill gives Nicky Henderson a strong hand in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle
Constitution Hill gives Nicky Henderson a strong hand in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (Steven Paston/PA)

“There’s a few others in the pipeline, like King Ottokar. There’s a horse called Surfman who ran in the French Derby, he was a very good horse on the Flat (for Roger Varian). He has had a history of problems, but he’s a lovely horse.

“There’s quite a few of our bumper horses that had a few niggly things last year that I think are in the top bracket. We haven’t seen them yet, so there’s a bit more to come before we decide who goes where.

“I’d be very surprised if Jonbon or Constitution Hill weren’t two-milers, so they’ve got to try to stay apart. Some of the others might well be in the two-and-a-half-mile division, that would be a help if they were rather than two-milers. But if we have to run six in the Supreme, fine!”

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