Jonbon got back to winning ways in the Betway Top Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree after seeing it out best in a thrilling battle with El Fabiolo.
Having lost his unbeaten record behind his Nicky Henderson-trained stablemate Constitution Hill in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, the question was how the full-brother to Douvan would bounce back from that.
A little warm beforehand, he settled beautifully for Aidan Coleman and followed leaders Salamanca Bay and Aucunrisque throughout the early stages.
There were still plenty in with chances approaching the third-last when Salamanca Bay unseated his rider who in turn hampered El Fabiolo, who had closed up menacingly.
It did not stop his momentum too badly, however, and in a matter of strides he was back upsides Jonbon and the pair settled down for a real scrap.
For a few strides it looked as if Willie Mullins’ lightly-raced El Fabiolo was going to prevail, but Jonbon (even-money favourite) really knuckled down.
In the final 50 yards he began to pull away and won by a neck, with the pair a yawning 19 lengths clear.
The win brought up a Grade One double for Henderson, Coleman and owner JP McManus following on from Epatante on Thursday.
Henderson said: “It’s not a consolation prize, but he deserves it because he’s done nothing wrong all year except bump into what could be an extraordinary horse who luckily lives in the same place!
“From my point of view it was rather less painful (at Cheltenham) than it was for the Jonbon team. It’s great to have two horses like that. They’re very, very exciting – you couldn’t have better.
“It was a very good race today and there’s no doubt the second horse is a very good horse – they were a long way clear of the rest.
“Jonbon has had it fairly easy up until today and that is the first time he’s really had to put his head down and fight for it – and he jolly well did. You have to admire him for the way he battled.
“He’s had a great campaign. Constitution Hill was the only horse that could lower his colours and you can’t really take that out on him and he’s finished up getting his Grade One here, which is great.
“He’s a big horse and his future probably lies over fences – I would have thought he’ll be novice chasing next season.
“He’d get further that two miles, I’m sure. We had him in the two-and-a-half-mile races both at Cheltenham and here, but we always felt we could stay at two for now.”
Mullins was satisfied with El Fabiolo’s effort, with the gallant runner-up sustaining “little nicks” to his front legs in defeat.
The trainer said: “It was only the third run of his life and he got a little bit of interference at the third last.
“I don’t know whether it cost him the race, but Paul (Townend) had to use some petrol to get back.
“He’s finished with two little nicks, one on each front leg, but we still might be able to get him to Punchestown.”