Tag Archive for: Jonbon

Jonbon never troubled in super Shloer triumph

Jonbon was much the best and had little trouble in the winning the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham.

In a field of four for the Grade Two highlight on the final day of the November Meeting, Nicky Henderson’s gelding was joined by Edwardstone, Nube Negra and Editeur Du Gite – all good horses in their own right.

Jonbon was the 4-9 favourite under Nico de Boinville as regular rider Aidan Coleman has not yet recovered from injury.

The duo hit their stride early and disputed the lead with Editeur Du Gite, but it was not long before Jonbon pushed to the fore and from there he was never going to be caught and strode to a straightforward success from Edwardstone, who has the best part of 10 lengths in arrears.

“The back-end of the last season, after the Arkle, we were dying to go two and a half (miles),” said Henderson.

“The two-mile novice at Aintree was much the easier race and then 13 days later he went to Sandown (Celebration Chase) and that was to find out if he was a two-miler against the second, third and fourth in the Champion Chase.

“He didn’t wait for them. He does look like a two-miler there, he’s got to stay there for now because of the Tingle Creek (at Sandown on December 9). Two and a half looks like it’s getting further away, I’m sure he’d stay but why go there if you don’t have to?

“He had the race (won) when he quickened off the bend as they were going to be pushed to get him from there.

“I thought he was great, we’ll see what everyone else wants to give him!”

A big smile from jockey Nico de Boinville
A big smile from jockey Nico de Boinville (Nigel French/PA)

He added: “His only two defeats have come here, one was Constitution Hill (Supreme Novices’ Hurdle) and one was El Fabiolo (Arkle Trophy). If we can convince Willie (Mullins, trainer of El Fabiolo) to stay in Ireland we can have a rematch (in March).

“I think he’s grown up a lot. Anything strange to him he goes ‘help’, but once he has done it once he is fine. He is not as bad as he was.

“You have to be very pleased. He was just pricking his ears on the run-in and I could see those two great big ears lock on. He has had a nice time and has enjoyed himself. He should come on for it.

“He went and had a walk around Newbury the other day before racing. He walked around one lap of the parade ring and was then out and home. It is all part of his preparation. Today he travelled well and all the team are here.”

Jonbon back in action in ‘competitive’ Shloer Chase

Jonbon is looking to book his ticket for the Tingle Creek by getting his season off to the perfect possible start in the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham on Sunday.

Only beaten twice in his life, both those defeats have come at Cheltenham but he has lost little in either race.

As yet, no horse has been able to live with his Nicky Henderson-trained stablemate Constitution Hill, so he is forgiven for coming second in the 2022 Supreme, while his trainer feels he was not quite at his best in the Arkle in March behind El Fabiolo.

That view was supported given he went on to win at Aintree and Sandown, latterly versus his elders, but he faces far from a penalty kick against Edwardstone and Nube Negra.

Nicky Henderson has high hopes for Jonbon this season
Nicky Henderson has high hopes for Jonbon this season (David Davies/PA)

Henderson said: “I’m looking forward to the race within reason, well as much as you ever do.

“He’s done plenty but with Edwardstone and Nube Negra, it’s a good competitive opener for the season.

“He proved over two miles (what he can do) and I was always wanting to go two and a half. We’re going to have to ask the same question again on Sunday. Does he want two and a half? We’ll ask the question again anyway.”

Nube Negra has won this race for the last two years but on quicker ground. He is, undoubtedly though, at his best on his first run of the season.

“Statistics show Nube Negra is very good first time out. I can’t deny that, he’s trying to be a three-time winner of the Shloer and that would be phenomenal,” said Dan Skelton.

“There is every right to be proud of what he is doing rather than saying ‘down the road he gets beaten in the Champion Chase’. Of course, we’d love to win that but I’m proud of what he can do, not what he hasn’t.

“This has been his big aim and he’s very ready.”

Nube Negra is at his best first time out
Nube Negra is at his best first time out (David Davies/PA)

Edwardstone returns to the scene of where he ran so poorly in March but Alan King’s charge had a solid record before that.

Jockey Tom Cannon said: “He was struggling down the back with me in the Champion Chase, as he normally takes you into a race very easily.

“I knew at the top of the hill that I had to ask a few questions of his jumping down the back, and he responded, but I used my petrol up earlier than I liked.

“Once we jumped three out and turned in, I wasn’t holding on to a lot of horse, which I think was there for everyone to see, really.

“That wasn’t Edwardstone at his best, but we should see a different side to him at the weekend.”

The field is completed by Gary Moore’s Editeur Du Gite.

Nemean Lion backed to roar again in Greatwood Hurdle

Kerry Lee is respectful of the opposition as Nemean Lion remains on track for the Unibet Greatwood Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham but reports her charge in fine spirits.

The six-year-old is among the favourites and a 6-1 chance with the sponsors for the prestigious handicap, having backed up some smart novice hurdles form with a win in the Welsh Champion Hurdle at Ffos Las on his reappearance.

That victory means Nemean Lion will have to carry top-weight at Prestbury Park but although his handler is not one for bullish predictions, she has been delighted with her charge since his return to action last month.

Lee said: “He’s been amazing, really good. I think he had a harder run than we first thought (at Ffos Las), but he has bounced back well and I’ve been really happy with his work the last week and fingers crossed he can continue to improve and progress.

“I will never say I’m confident and we always go with hope rather than confidence. The Kelso form is there to be respected, but there is lots of other good horses in the race with decent form as well themselves.

“It’s a hot race and there is no way you can go into it with any confidence and expectation, we’ll just go there, give it a crack and hope for the best.”

Knickerbockerglory is a possible runner in the Greatwood Hurdle
Knickerbockerglory is a possible runner in the Greatwood Hurdle (Simon Marper/PA)

Nemean Lion is one of 18 confirmed for Sunday’s contest, with Dan Skelton’s recent Ascot winner Knickerbockerglory and stablemate L’Eau Du Sud, as well as Nicky Henderson’s Luccia, among those towards the head of the sponsor’s betting.

Unibet have Irish raider Onlyamatteroftime as their market leader, with the seven-year-old set to make his first start for Willie Mullins, while recent track-and-trip winner Lookaway and last year’s runner-up Gin Coco are other notable names among the list of possibles.

Jonbon is the headline attraction in the supporting Shloer Chase, which has attracted a maximum field of six.

Nicky Henderson’s star chaser stepped out of novice company to win Sandown’s Celebration Chase in the spring but could face a sterner examination here, with former Arkle winner Edwardstone and fellow 2022 Cheltenham Festival scorer Banbridge both joining defending champion Nube Negra among the potential runners.

Gary Moore’s Clarence House Chase winner Editeur Du Gite and Henry de Bromhead’s recent track-and-trip victor Dancing On My Own complete the entries.

Henderson happy, as Jonbon and Shishkin enjoy an away day

Jonbon and Shishkin were part of a small team of Nicky Henderson horses who took part in a gallop at Windsor on Tuesday, as both work towards targets next month.

Jonbon is being primed for a comeback in the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham’s Paddy Power meeting on November 19, while Shishkin has the Betfair Chase at Haydock on November 25 in his sights.

Luccia, Chantry House, Dusart and a new French recruit called Excello were the others galloping at the Thameside track, which Henderson cannot wait to see back in action during the winter from 2024 onwards.

“It was a very good morning. The ground was beautiful. I actually had a walk around with them changing it, I know it’s not until next winter, but it’s going to be really good, I think it will be fantastic,” said Henderson.

Shishkin won at Aintree in April
Shishkin won at Aintree in April (David Davies/PA)

“It was interesting because they raced on the Flat there yesterday and called it heavy but we’d have only called it good to soft, we felt it was lovely ground.

“We took six. Shishkin, Jonbon, Dusart, Chantry House, Luccia and an ex-French horse called Excello. They all had a nice time, they didn’t do anything spectacular, it was just a nice day out.

“We’re thinking of Haydock for Shishkin and the Betfair Chase, while the Shloer is a possible for Jonbon.

“They are all coming along nicely, a lot of our horses worked on the grass last weekend, they are all schooling and so far so good, a lot of them are ready to go.

“It’s completely different to last year when it was like a road. Our grass was beautiful last weekend, they’ll all work again this weekend but it was just about giving them a nice time today, an away day.”

One Henderson big gun who stayed back in Seven Barrows, is Constitution Hill. His comeback date is a few weeks away, so he remained at home for the time being.

“Constitution Hill doesn’t need to be ready until December 2 and the Fighting Fifth, he’s got a little bit more time so he’s well, he’ll work again on Saturday and I’m sure he’ll go away somewhere before Newcastle,” said Henderson.

Jonbon has Henderson in celebration mode at Sandown

Jonbon proved a point for Nicky Henderson, taking on and beating senior rivals over two miles in the bet365 Celebration Chase at Sandown.

Sent off the 8-13 favourite for the Grade One feature, Aidan Coleman’s mount, who was runner-up in the Arkle Challenge Trophy to El Fabiolo, had bounced back to score at Aintree on his previous start.

It was something of a surprise Henderson decided to run him again, given his busy back-end to the season, and in open company.

It was not all plain sailing for the brother of Douvan, however. Having led early against his four rivals, he made two jumping errors and was briefly shuffled back to last.

Coleman gave him plenty of time to get his act together and he was soon on the bridle again, and was back in contention by the Pond Fence, where Champion Chase runner-up Captain Guinness and Rachael Blackmore had asserted.

Beating off Greaneteen, who had won this race for the past two years, the pair had it to themselves over the last two fences, but Jonbon’s stamina kicked in, and a superb jump at the last sealed the deal for the three-and-three-quarter-length winner.

Jonbon was cut to 4-1 from 6-1 with Coral for next season’s Ryanair Chase and 6-1 (from 10s) for the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

Henderson said: “It was brave (running him). We had ummed and ahhed all week. I’ve been in Punchestown all week and the boys have been getting this fellow ready – Paddy (Murphy) who rides him every day, and Charlie (Morlock), who is my right-hand man, I’ve been talking to them every day and there was just no reason not to run him.

“It is very un-Henderson like sort of tactics. There was no reason I could find (not to run. I was talking to JP (McManus) for three days and he said you have got to earn your corn as you are the trainer. That was my final deciding ball, that if we take these two-milers on we will meet next season and cope with them then we can start thinking of Tingle Creek and things like that next season.

Jonbon in action under Aidan Coleman
Jonbon in action under Aidan Coleman (Steven Paston/PA)

“That (mistake down the back) was the only thing that was probably novicey about him today. It was one where he didn’t know which way to go. He had been very long at the ditch and he just didn’t quite make his mind up. To come back from that as a novice, I think that makes a man of him. Three fences later he is back on the bridle as if nothing had happened but something had happened, something quite significant in fact had happened.

“A lot of horses would have dropped themselves out after that mistake, but I think that is testament to his engine.”

Reflecting on Cheltenham, the Seven Barrows trainer said: “Cheltenham was disappointing. I was worried when this ground was going soft as I didn’t want the chase course going soft as I do think he is a better horse on good ground. He didn’t jump as well as he could at Cheltenham, but take nothing away from the winner (El Fabiolo) who again looked fabulous at Punchestown.

“Two years ago it was Energuemene versus Shishkin. Now the next dust-up is going to be El Fabiolo and Jonbon. It is one all (between them). I do (think on better ground we can get the better of him). I was mighty impressed with El Fabiolo the other day. We have proved today we can take on the best two-milers.

“Today bar one he was excellent and he will be excellent again at Cheltenham I hope next year and there is a lot to look forward to.”

Jonbon following Altior route in chasing Sandown glory

Jonbon has the chance to replicate the achievement of Seven Barrows alumni Altior when he lines up in the bet365 Celebration Chase at Sandown.

Nicky Henderson’s dual Champion Chase winner followed up his Arkle success in 2017 by landing this as a fencing rookie – his first of three victories in the race – and Jonbon will now also attempt to win it as a novice, stepping into open company for the first time.

Although he fell short in his own quest for Cheltenham Festival glory when second behind El Fabiolo in the Arkle, Henderson’s strapping seven-year-old got back on track with a bloodless 43-length success in the Maghull Novices’ Chase at Aintree and now returns to a course and distance he has already tasted Grade One glory at this season.

“He’s come out of the race in Liverpool good and Nicky is really happy with him,” said Frank Berry, racing manager for Jonbon’s owner JP McManus.

“He was very good at Aintree and did everything well and it’s a nice race for him to wind up the season and step into open company. He’s in good form and he will hopefully give a good account of himself. You will know where you stand for the start of the new season and we can take it from there.

“He has the right man training him and he’s happy with him.”

This race has seen no shortage of repeat winners in the past 10 years and another horse looking to follow in the footsteps of Altior is Greaneteen.

Greaneteen, ridden by jockey Harry Cobden, clears a fence on their way to winning the bet365 Celebration Chase last year
Greaneteen, ridden by jockey Harry Cobden, clears a fence on their way to winning the bet365 Celebration Chase last year (Nigel French/PA)

Paul Nicholls has won this race seven times in the past and his course specialist has an impeccable record at the Esher track, winning this the past two years and now searching for a hat-trick on the back of a third in the Champion Chase last time.

“He loves the track and he comes good at this time of year,” said Nicholls.

“He ran very well in the Champion Chase and would have been second if he hadn’t made a horrendous mistake at the top of the hill, which is unlike him.

“He did well to finish third and he seems in good order. He will need to be to beat Jonbon because I think Jonbon is an improving horse. It will be a good race and we think we have quite a nice chance.”

Henry de Bromhead’s consistent Captain Guinness was a place ahead of Greaneteen at Prestbury Park and looks to add to Special Tiara’s 2015 victory for the Knockeen handler, while in fourth at the Festival was Gary Moore’s Editeur Du Gite.

Prior to that the nine-year-old had caused a shock in both the Desert Orchid and the Clarence House and would prove a fitting winner for connections who tasted success in this race with Sire De Grugy in both 2013 and 2014.

“It would be a lovely way to end the year if he could win,” said Moore.

Editeur Du Gite has won both the Desert Orchid and Clarence House Chase this season
Editeur Du Gite has won both the Desert Orchid and Clarence House Chase this season (Nigel French/PA)

“It’s no easy task with Jonbon in there and the two that beat him at Cheltenham. But hopefully the ground will be a bit better for him this time. It isn’t his favourite way round but he’s in relatively good order so fingers crossed.

“He’s had a good year and this would be a nice way to end it. It would be lovely to win it again, it’s a race I like, I think it’s a great race and a great spectacle. We’ll do our best.”

The field is complete by Venetia Williams’ Funambule Sivola, who was an early faller in the Champion Chase but won the Game Spirit on his penultimate start.

Henderson makes Celebration Chase entry for Jonbon

Nicky Henderson’s Jonbon is a surprise contender in the bet365 Celebration Chase at Sandown.

A novice, his only defeat over fences came in the Arkle at Cheltenham behind Willie Mullins’ El Fabiolo.

Since then he has won at Aintree when he appreciated the better ground, but he was expected to be put away for the season.

Henderson is no stranger to running novices in open company with Sprinter Sacre and Altior both winning the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury as novices.

“We’ve put him in so there’s a good chance he’ll turn up. He’s in there to run,” said the Seven Barrows trainer.

“We’re just monitoring him. He seems very well in himself. Everybody at home has been very happy with him and I thought he looked great yesterday and today so we popped him.

“He absolutely bounced off that good ground at Aintree, he really loves it.

“We’ve run novices in open company before so we have done it with others.”

Altior won the Celebration Chase three times himself and if Jonbon runs he will be attempting to stop Greaneteen from achieving the same feat.

Paul Nicholls’ chaser excels at Sandown, with a Tingle Creek to go with his two victories in this race.

Captain Guinness and Editeur Du Gite, second and third to Energumene in the Champion Chase, add further strength in depth to what could prove to be a fascinating Grade One contest.

First Flow, Funambule Sivola, Global Citizen and Magic Daze complete the list.

In the bet365 Gold Cup Saturday’s Scottish National winner Kitty’s Light could make a quick reappearance for Christian Williams.

Kitty’s Light won the Scottish National on Saturday
Kitty’s Light won the Scottish National on Saturday (Jane Barlow/PA)

Last year’s winner Hewick has also been left in by Shark Hanlon, although he has been declared to run in the Punchestown Gold Cup on Wednesday.

Should Hewick not run Frodon will be at the head of the weights for Nicholls and Bryony Frost.

Nicholls could also run Switch Hitter and Enrillo. The latter was first past the post in the 2021 renewal but was disqualified and placed third.

Hewick has also been left in the bet365 Oaksey Chase in which Nicholls could run McFabulous and Solo.

McFabulous also has the option of running in the bet365 Select Hurdle along with stablemate Knappers Hill.

Goshen, Thyme Hill and Call Me Lord are among eight entries.

Jonbon enjoys Maghull stroll at Aintree

Jonbon strolled to an easy win in the EFT Systems Maghull Novices’ Chase at Aintree.

The Nicky Henderson-trained bay was one of a small field of four and pulled away smartly around the final bend under Aidan Coleman.

He streaked clear of Calico, ridden by Harry Skelton for his brother Dan, who then fell at the last and left Jonbon to cruise home as the 2-11 favourite.

Marvel De Cerisy set out to make all in the two-mile affair, but when Coleman gave the signal, Jonbon eased by to assume control.

Some fine leaps up the straight sealed the 43-length victory, with Marvel De Cerisy taking second and Fusain a further 27 lengths away in third.

Jonbon was returning to winning form after finding El Fabiolo too good in the Arkle at Cheltenham and Henderson felt his charge had shown his true colours this time.

Jonbon and Aidan Coleman after winning the Maghull
Jonbon and Aidan Coleman after winning the Maghull (David Davies/PA)

The Seven Barrows handler said: “He was good today, wasn’t he? The ground has probably dried out a bit since yesterday and he does love that good ground.

“That is the way he jumps when he’s right. He jumped from fence to fence today and didn’t jump from fence to fence at Cheltenham. Whether it was just the better ground today, I don’t know.

“I was thinking we’d come here and run over two and a half miles, but we knew Dysart Dynamo and El Fabiolo weren’t going here and JP (McManus, owner) said a couple of weeks ago ‘what is actually going to run in the two-mile race’? He was absolutely right.

“Aidan said on good ground he feels like a two-miler. I’ve always thought he’d go as far as you like, but we’ll see – we don’t have to make any decisions today.”

Jonbon on his way to victory
Jonbon on his way to victory (Nigel French/PA)

When asked whether Jonbon could run again before the end of the season at either Punchestown or Sandown, the trainer added: “I very much doubt it, but I won’t rule anything out.

“I know he didn’t win the Arkle, but he’s had a very good first season over fences.”

Coleman also thought conditions had been more to Jonbon’s liking.

He said: “I just didn’t really kind of get out of the ground in the Arkle but we’re more or less the top of the ground now, so it’s lovely for him and the slow side of good.

“He was much more at home and he really jumps better off it because he’s a low, neat jumper and I think he just got a bit stuck on that tacky ground at Cheltenham. He still ran very well obviously and he’s had a great career so far, so onwards and upwards.

“I think he could still go up in trip and there’s lots of options for him. I’d say two miles on that ground and riding him aggressively or forward is something he’s a fan of, but with the way he relaxes and jumps, I’d say you can do anything you want with him.”

Speed on show as Authorised takes Mersey test

New tactics will be employed by jockey Jamie Moore as Authorised Speed bids to break his Grade One duck in the Turners Mersey Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree on Saturday.

The six-year-old has won three of his his four starts over hurdles since being the first British-trained horse home in last season’s Cheltenham Champion Bumper.

The only blip in this sphere was defeat in the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown, a reverse subsequently glossed over when scoring with ease in calmer waters at the same track.

Gary Moore’s Horsham yard is in prime form and the trainer is hoping for a big run against 14 opponents.

He said: “He seems in good heart at home. Any more rain would be appreciated and hopefully he goes there and gives a good account of himself.

“It was very dead ground in the Tolworth and he wasn’t quite right on the day as it turned out.

“He needs time between his races and he’s had a reasonable amount of time this time.

“We will just ride him different up there. He will be fairly prominent, I’d say. It’s a speed track and it makes sense.

“He has a great owner (Pat Gallagher), so it would be good to see him win a Grade One for him. We have always thought a lot of this horse.”

You Wear It Well is one of two mares in the Aintree heat
You Wear It Well is one of two mares in the Aintree heat (Mike Egerton/PA)

Jamie Snowden insists You Wear It Well, one of two mares in the line-up, is in better shape than ever, following her Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle success at Cheltenham.

Though she has a bit to find with Hermes Allen, who beat her in the Challow at Newbury in December, Snowden feels she has improved, with a step back up in trip also a benefit.

He said: “Obviously she came out of Cheltenham really well. She is looking great in herself, in fact she’s probably looking better than she has all season.

“She is really blossoming, so comes here hopefully with a chance. We are taking on the boys, so she has got to step forward again, but she gets a 7lb allowance, considering she had the penalty at Cheltenham. She has got a lot in her favour and stepping up in trip will help her.”

Gordon Elliott feels improvement will be forthcoming from Irish Point
Gordon Elliott feels improvement will be forthcoming from Irish Point (Mike Egerton/PA)

The Willie Mullins-trained Dark Raven and Gordon Elliott’s Irish Point spearhead the Irish challenge.

The latter has twice been runner-up in Irish Grade Ones and picked up a Grade Three over an extended mile and seven furlongs at Naas last time.

Elliott said: “I was very happy with his win at Naas last time.

“He was good and honest when the going got tough. I’m hoping there is more improvement in him and we’re looking forward to seeing how he gets on.”

The EFT Systems Magull Novices’ Chase, which opens the seven-race card on Grand National day, will see Jonbon attempt to atone for his defeat by El Fabiolo in the Arkle.

That was a first loss over fences for Nicky Henderson’s star, who takes on four rivals in the two-mile Grade One event.

Jonbon will bid to go one better than in the Arkle
Jonbon will bid to go one better than in the Arkle (David Davies/PA)

Henderson said: “We were toying with the two-and-a-half-mile race but in the end we just liked the look of the two-mile race for him, it just seemed the obvious place for him.

“He’s a very good horse, has only lost twice in his life and both at the (Cheltenham) Festival. He’s been great for us and he’s in very good form.”

Though the field does not appear to have the depth of the Arkle, there are a couple of unexposed types who could surprise.

Patrick Neville hopes Fusain, who slammed Stag Horn by 35 lengths at Catterick last time, is one of them.

He said: “He’s in great form and we’re happy with him going down there. He’s a horse who had a few problems, but we seem to have sorted them all out.

“He had wind surgery and a couple of other issues, but he’s sorted and hopefully he’s improving away. We’re looking forward to it. We are just taking a chance in a Grade One.

“Going back to two miles won’t be a problem and I think the track will suit him. It’s a speed track and a flat track, so hopefully that will help. It won’t be easy with Jonbon in there, but we’ll have a go.”

Jonbon aiming to maintain family honour in Arkle

Jonbon gets the chance to emulate his brother Douvan and land the Sporting Life Arkle Challenge Trophy when he takes on El Fabiolo in a powerhouse clash on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival.

The duo fought out a thriller over hurdles at Aintree last year, where Nicky Henderson’s seven-year-old prevailed by a neck to gain compensation for his annihilation at the hands of Constitution Hill in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle a few weeks prior.

That Prestbury Park reversal remains Jonbon’s sole defeat and he quickly shot to the top of the Arkle betting with an ultra-professional display on chasing debut at Warwick.

A first Grade One over the larger obstacles quickly followed when taking the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown in fine fashion before returning to Warwick to add the Kingmaker to his CV last month.

Although far from perfect in that two-runner tune-up mission, Henderson admits he left plenty to work on and believes the guaranteed hot pace of the Arkle will play to his charge’s strengths.

“We’re looking at Warwick as a good wake up call for him, he’ll be sharper for it,” said the Seven Barrows handler.

“He had a good blow and while he looked fantastically well, he looked ready to go to the show ring – not the racecourse – and I think he just needed it more than he anticipated it.

“It wasn’t pretty to watch. He did jump very well and eventually he quickened up and he’s done it nicely – as he ought to have done to be fair, as he should have beaten that horse (Calico) comfortably.

Trainer Nicky Henderson and Jonbon during a visit to Nicky Henderson’s stables at Seven Barrows in Lambourn
Trainer Nicky Henderson and Jonbon during a visit to Nicky Henderson’s stables at Seven Barrows in Lambourn (David Davies/PA)

“They’ll go a good gallop in the Arkle and that should suit him. That’s why I was keen for him to get a lead (at Warwick).

“He’s up there with my other Arkle winners. I know Constitution Hill beat him quite a long way, but other than that he’s been very good.”

Douvan famously sauntered to a seven-length success over future Gold Cup winner Sizing John in 2016 but the Henderson-trained sibling might not find things so easy as he takes on the might of Closutton.

Willie Mullins’ challenge is headed by impressive Irish Arkle winner El Fabiolo, who although only 9-2 in the betting at Leopardstown was the only runner able to keep up with the breakneck fractions set by Danny Mullins aboard Dysart Dynamo and pulled 10 lengths clear of the opposition at the finish.

He now has a familiar foe to reverse form with, but Mullins feels he has every chance of turning the tables.

He said: “El Fabiolo did everything right (at Leopardstown) and his run against Jonbon last year puts him right in the picture, I think.

“It was only his second run for us and Jonbon was in his own backyard, whereas we had to travel over to England, so he goes there with a huge chance.”

Saint Roi ridden by jockey Mark Walsh (left) wins the Brand New Racing Post App Novice Chase at Leopardstown
Saint Roi ridden by jockey Mark Walsh (left) wins the Brand New Racing Post App Novice Chase at Leopardstown (Brian Lawless/PA)

Dysart Dynamo is engaged once again and is sure to be leading the field at speed, while former County Hurdle winner and last year’s Champion Hurdle third Saint Roi is another for the Closutton squad.

The Mullins quartet is complete by Ha D’or, while Gordon Elliott’s Hollow Games and Cian Collins’ likeable mare Effernock Fizz are others making the trip from Ireland.

Sheila Lewis’ course-and-distance winner Straw Fan Jack returns from a 109-day absence to take his chance at Grade One level with Samuel Drinkwater’s Chepstow winner Ballybreeze the likely outsider of nine.

Roving Reports: Kingmaker for a Day

It would appear that since my last blog post about a fortnight ago, we haven't had a drop of rain worth mentioning around here in the Midlands and indeed, small fields have really been a pain in the backside for bookmakers during the latter half of February, writes David Massey. It is rare for us not to go to a meeting that we've scheduled in but Hereford on Sunday got the push after we realised there were four four-horse events on the card. I'm sure there are connections out there delighted with the dry weather for their good-ground horses but it's not much use to punters or bookmakers, and we decided a day on the sofa rather than freezing us whatsits off trying to get the odds-on pokes beaten made more appeal.

I have been out since we last conversed, though, with a couple of visits to Warwick, on Kingmaker Day and then for their in-for-a-fiver day last Friday. Kingmaker Day was decent business and one of our regular bigger punters turned up. Sadly for us, he was in good form, having £200 on Mr Freedom at 7s to win the handicap hurdle and another £400 on Imperial Alex, but we did still win on the day.

The Jonbon match for the Kingmaker itself saw more action in the race than it did beforehand, although needless to say the whole crowd had had their fiver on Calico to cause an upset. (I didn't hear of one single punter willing to take the 1-14 available, out of interest). With five to jump it did look like Calico was going to give them all something to cheer about, but the pantomime boos as Jonbon went past the post in first place were much more about people's pockets than any hatred towards Nicky's star chaser.

For the record, as I was working on the rails and saw Jonbon go down to post, I thought I'd seen him fitter and that he'd come on for the run. He's still the one to beat in the Arkle, for my money.

The most comical conversation of the afternoon took place not on my joint, but next door with Colin, working for Martyn Of Leicester. A few of the books bet "win only" on the novice hurdle that followed the Kingmaker as the each-way was shocking business (plenty of those that bet each-way were well overbroke on the places, come racing) but Colin was each-way. Up comes a lady punter to him with her tenner.

"Are you betting each-way on this race?" she asks him.

"Indeed I am", replies Colin.

"Can I have five pounds on number four then, please?"


"No, win."

Brilliant. I could barely suppress my laughter and Colin's face told its own story of bemusement. He just shook his head, and carried on...

In the middle of the course one of those Invades student gigs was going on. You might have seen these on your travels. If not, have a Google and you'll see what they're about. Generally speaking I'm all for them, although as yet I've not had to work in the middle of one of them, which is what my friends at S&D Bookmakers did on the day. [They look like a lot of fun and, unlike concert nights, the students are actually having a bet! - Ed.]

4 out of 5 bets you take are on debit card; whilst us oldsters still like the feel of cash in our wallet, it's all on card with the kids these days. Some bookmakers still don't take card, and I do think they'll have to move with the times, or miss out. Yes, it takes a few seconds longer and sometimes they can be a pain when you're busy, but ultimately the future lies that way, and I think you're better getting with the program now rather than later.

Anyway, we leave Warwick that day with the party in full swing, Fatboy Slim's "Eat, Sleep, Rave, Repeat" blasting in our ears. Eat, Sleep, Race, Repeat, more like. In the car park we bump into the S&D lot; they look utterly exhausted. "I've never worked so hard to take the money we have", says Rob, ashen-faced and in need of two paracetamol. "Fiver win, card. Fiver win, card. Fiver win, card. Does nobody carry cash any more?" Not under 25 they don't, Rob.

Warwick's Fiver Friday, timed to coincide with half term for maximum effect, usually draws a good family crowd, and last Friday was no exception. You know what the day will be like, a lot of novice punters there for a day out with the kids, so expect small money but plenty of it. Our big punter turns up again, too, and again he finds a winner, having £400 on Pikar. But before that, we have the farce that is the first to sort out.

You may have seen the race. Half the field go one side of a set of railings down the back and the other half go the other side. Who has taken the wrong course? It would appear there's going to be some sorting out to do in the Stewards room afterwards and, of course, that means we can't pay out.

The first thing to note is how long it took to actually call the enquiry. You'd have imagined the moment they went past the post that the "bing-bong" would sound, but no, it took a good three minutes for them to actually announce the enquiry, during which everyone was as wise as each other as to what was happening. We are telling punters to hold on to their tickets, they are (rightly, at the time) telling us no enquiry has been called, and whilst it isn't a tense situation by any means, it's one that could have been easily diffused. In the end, the result is allowed to stand, and we can finally get paid out and crack on with the next.

The rest of the day passes without incident, until we get to race 6. One woman, the worse for a beverage or two, has a couple of bets on the race and I'm fairly sure, post-race, that she's backed the winner. However, nobody picks up and after the last, we get packed up and are ready to go. Just as we are about to leave, a bloke and his wife come up to me with half a ticket.

"I think this has won, but she's torn the ticket in half."

It is indeed the winning ticket from race 6. Well, half of it. It's been torn from top to bottom. As this isn't the original punter, I'm a little suspicious.

"I don't suppose you have the other half, do you?"

"She says she's lost it."

Leaving aside why the hell you'd rip up a winning ticket, I have a feeling if I pay this, the other half could mysteriously appear, get sent to Late Pay for payment (you can do this, have a look on the back of your docket next time you have a bet at the races) and we'll end up paying twice. I politely decline to pay, suggest they have a good look through their pockets and send it in to Late Pay once they've found the other half.

You do get the odd punter try it on, but less so on course than in the shops. I remember working for Stanley Racing back in the day and had a Polish bloke and his mate, who we nicknamed Jaws (built like said character from the Bond movies) who was always trying something. He once came rushing up to the counter for a dog race shouting "trap 6, favourite, trap 6" as they were going in the boxes. I ask him does he want trap 6 on the slip, or the unnamed favourite? "Trap 6, six!" he barks back at me. I duly write trap 6 on the slip. In the meantime, the jollies have flipped and the one dog is now favourite, not the six. The red bolts out and makes all.

Up comes our man. "Favourite, favourite!" he shouts, waving his slip at me. I know what he is doing. "You said trap 6, and that's lost.", is my reply. He looks at me, and calmly walks out. Thinking I've had a result and there's no trouble, I get back to settling the bets. However, thirty seconds later they return. Jaws has picked up next door's wheelie bin and launches it at the bandit screen. It cracks but holds. Even more remarkably, the pair just stand there like lemons whilst I call the coppers, who come and take them for a free ride in the back of their car. But not before I tell them they're barred.

Back to the present, and I've just seen the weather forecast for this week. Drier than a Bedouin's flip-flops. Snow for Cheltenham a possibility, I'm told. Don't be packing the big coat away just yet, boys and girls. See you all at Prestbury in a couple of weeks, and the best of luck to you.

- DM

Jonbon expected to improve for Warwick workout

Nicky Henderson believes it would be dangerous to underestimate Jonbon in the Arkle Trophy at next month’s Cheltenham Festival following his workmanlike success at Warwick on Saturday.

Best of the rest behind his brilliant stablemate Constitution Hill in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle last season, the JP McManus-owned seven-year-old pursued a career over fences this term and was hugely impressive in winning on his debut at Warwick and in landing the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown.

He was a 1-16 favourite to see off a solitary rival and make it a hat-trick in last weekend’s Kingmaker Novices’ Chase – but it was not as straightforward as expected, with Calico challenging and even passing Henderson’s charge racing down the back straight.

Jonbon reeled him back in on the home turn and eventually pulled clear on the run-in, but was nevertheless replaced as the Arkle favourite by Irish Arkle winner El Fabiolo.

While many were unimpressed, Henderson, who has won the two-mile novice chasing championship on a record seven occasions, has not lost any faith in his latest contender and is confident he will be at concert pitch for the day that matters.

“He’s a good horse. Constitution Hill beat him quite a long way, but after that he’s been very good,” said the Seven Barrows handler.

“On Saturday I think Aidan (Coleman, jockey) had just taken his foot off the gas going down the back, he’d just got into a nice rhythm and didn’t see any reason to go any quicker. Then all of a sudden this thing swooped like a buzzard, it caught him unawares and he was four lengths down.

“I think it will have done him good, personally. He had a right good blow, like he’s never done before, so I’m going to take positives.

“I wanted a lead, that’s the first time he’s ever jumped a fence behind another horse, which didn’t worry him but it just hurried him up a little bit.

“Warwick is sharp and going down the back straight flat to the boards just caught him out for two fences and he had to chase him round the bend.

“I’d better just get on and sharpen my own pencil and get a bit more work done.”

While Jonbon is very much the star of Henderson’s novice chasing team, two other horses for whom the trainer holds high hopes are City Chief and Mister Coffey.

City Chief impressed in winning the Towton Novices’ Chase at Wetherby earlier in the month, but looks set to sidestep Cheltenham, while Mister Coffey is in line for the National Hunt Chase despite suffering defeat under his planned Cheltenham rider Derek O’Connor at Uttoxeter on Saturday.

Mister Coffey (centre) in action at Sandown
Mister Coffey (centre) in action at Sandown (Steven Paston/PA)

“I don’t think City Chief is ready for it – I think he needs another year,” reasoned Henderson.

“He was great at Wetherby, and the time before. He’s learning but he’s got a bit more to learn and I don’t want him in there this year. He will be there, he’s going the right way all the time but no. He has an entry but I’d rather not.

“Mister Coffey will go for the National Hunt Chase. I was a bit disappointed he got beaten the other day, but we wanted to make the running, they had a false start and then a standing start and the trouble is he stayed standing!

“After that he got caught horribly wide the whole way round and personally I think he should have won, but we got a run into him and he ran a good race and the National Hunt Chase is what we’ve been aiming at all along – that was why Derek was there (Uttoxeter). The plan is for him to ride.”

‘Rusty’ Jonbon stays unbeaten over fences in Kingmaker at Warwick

Jonbon was replaced as Arkle favourite, despite maintaining his unbeaten record over fences in the Virgin Bet Kingmaker Novices’ Chase at Warwick.

Sent off at 1-16 to beat just one rival – Dan Skelton’s Calico – following the morning withdrawal of two others, his trademark zip appeared to be missing at times.

Aidan Coleman sent Nicky Henderson’s charge into an early lead and while he was doing things easily enough, he was not getting away from Calico.

Halfway down the back straight Harry Skelton sensed an opportunity and sent Calico up Jonbon’s inside, met the next fence on a perfect stride and soon found himself three lengths clear.

It took Jonbon a couple of fences to realise he had a race on his hands and Coleman was happy to challenge around Calico’s outside on the final bend.

Once in front the race was never in doubt, but was rather workmanlike in winning by five and a half lengths.

He was pushed out by the bookmakers for the Arkle at Cheltenham next month, with Betfair going 2-1 from 11-8 and making Willie Mullins’ El Fabiolo their 11-10 favourite. Coral make El Fabiolo their 5-4 favourite from 7-4, with Jonbon out to 13-8 from even money.

“It was a prep run and we knew we had plenty to work on,” said Coleman.

“We schooled him the other morning and he schooled very well, but he was very fresh.

“He jumped super again there, I was just coming down to that fence there and we were going an honest gallop and I didn’t want to be pressing on too much considering it’s a trial. Harry set his alight and winged it and although he didn’t make a mistake, Harry got going and I was somewhat chasing him a little.

“But I was always quite confident from three-quarters of a mile out – I met the next three fences well and put it to bed well. He was probably a bit rusty, but he won well on the line and I was happy with him.

“It’s the exact same thing (as Haydock last year). We’re coming here with something to work on and not trained for this in particular. Look, he came here ready to win and we were sweet on him, but it is a trial for the Arkle and that’s why we are here. It was the exact same in Haydock last year.

“He likes good ground and he was fine on it. I was very happy with him. It was still a good performance and he got the job done.”

On shifting right at his fences he added: “He only did it once and that happens a lot at that third one away from the stands. You’re coming into it on a bend and he was a bit right there.

“It probably looks somewhat worse than it was and when you straighten up you have to get him back on the near lead and get him going forward. The odd time he can shimmy left, he’s just a very clever and accurate and sometimes he does just adjust one way.”

Henderson was at Newbury, where he said: “I’m going to look on the bright side. Because he’s had such easy races I think he got taken by surprise when the other horse attacked him.

“He just sort of shook his head. It will do him no harm as he hasn’t had a race since Aintree last year. I’m going to look on the bright side.

“That was his prep and by the looks it shook him a little bit, but I’ll talk to Aidan.”

Jonbon now has a few questions to answer
Jonbon now has a few questions to answer (Steven Paston/PA)

Sir Anthony McCoy, representing winning owner JP McManus, said: “They’re all contenders and we’ll have to see, but he’s trained by a man who knows more about training horses like that than I do.

“He was happy with him and you would imagine he is looking at March and not today. I would say he was just ready to have a run – he looked a bit rusty. The Arkle is in March, not today.

“He isn’t going to win an Arkle running like that, but that isn’t the Arkle. I wasn’t worried watching him and he actually won quite well in the end.

“He’s grand, he won and he will have learnt a little bit more from that today.

“The Arkle will be different and he will need to be sharper than that, but the man who trains him knows what he’s doing and you’re just going to let him get on with doing his thing.

“March is what he’s being trained for.”

Jonbon commanding all the attention in Kingmaker

Aidan Coleman is relishing the prospect of partnering Jonbon again, as he looks to continue his so-far flawless chasing career in the Virgin Bet Kingmaker Novices’ Chase at Warwick on Saturday.

The seven-year-old has made the step from hurdler to chaser look incredibly easy with two wide-margin successes thus far, including a Grade One victory in the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown in December.

Prior to that he won his debut at Warwick in November by seven lengths, giving him experience over both course and distance ahead of the weekend.

The market leader for the Arkle Trophy, the JP McManus-owned Jonbon is likely to face a stern challenger from across the Irish Sea in March as El Fabiolo landed the Irish equivalent of the race last weekend and will be headed to the Cheltenham Festival next.

Jonbon and Aidan Coleman
Jonbon and Aidan Coleman (Nigel French/PA)

Coleman has ridden the Nicky Henderson-trained full-brother to Douvan in all but one of his starts under rules and reports him to have schooled well in the run-up to his Kingmaker engagement.

“Jonbon has been very good this season at Warwick and at Sandown, he was very impressive on both starts,” he said.

“I’m really looking forward to getting on him, he’s very exciting. I schooled him on Thursday, and he felt great and looked great.

“I’m looking forward to it, it’s another test for him and there’s a couple of very nice horses in it, but it’s always very exciting to ride him.”

Assessing the threat of El Fabiolo come the big day, Henderson told Unibet: “It’s interesting because El Fabiolo beat Dysart Dynamo at Leopardstown over the weekend, and he is the obvious candidate to take him on.

“We met in the novice hurdle at Aintree last year and Jonbon beat him a head that day so technically there’s nothing between them. A hurdle race around Aintree and a fast-run two-mile novice chase around Cheltenham are two different things.

“Jonbon’s jumping has been very pleasing. He is clever, as well as brave, so hopefully he can do most things.”

Frank Berry, McManus’ racing manager, added: “Touch wood, he’s very exciting. He’s been very good to date over fences and he seems to be really liking it.

“I believe Nicky is very happy with him and let’s hope all goes well now on Saturday.”

However, Jonbon now faces just one rival as Gary Moore’s Haddex Des Obeaux has been pulled out due to a bruised foot and Sandy Thomson’s Bass Rock scoped dirty.

Dan Skelton’s Calico is his only opponent.

Kingmaker promises to be a test for Arkle favourite Jonbon

Jonbon is out to cement his Arkle claims in the Virgin Bet Kingmaker Novices’ Chase at Warwick on Saturday.

Nicky Henderson’s seven-year-old has taken to fences seamlessly and the only defeat in his career remains at the hands of his seemingly other-worldly stablemate Constitution Hill in last season’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

With El Fabiolo, a neck behind Jonbon at Aintree last season, setting a new marker in the Irish Arkle last weekend, the JP McManus-owned gelding needs to reassert his authority in the ante-post market.

With experience of Warwick’s tricky fences already banked, Jonbon will be looking to follow in the footsteps of Edwardstone, who won this 12 months ago before taking Arkle glory.

Frank Berry, McManus’ racing manager, said: “Touch wood, he’s very exciting. He’s been very good to date over fences and he seems to be really liking it.

“I believe Nicky is very happy with him and let’s hope all goes well now on Saturday.

“This is a competitive little race and Warwick is a lovely track which tests your jumping.

“Most of these races are competitive, Saturday is no different and that is what it is all about.”

Jonbon faces three rivals and one in particular might make him pull out all the stops.

Gary Moore’s Haddex Des Obeaux has won his last two in the style of a rapidly-improving young novice and is well worth his place in a Grade Two.

Sandy Thomson’s Bass Rock and Dan Skelton’s Calico are two other worthwhile opponents.