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Jonbon hits all the right notes on Newbury debut

Jonbon lived up to the huge billing that preceded him on his debut when smoothly dispatching his rivals for Nicky Henderson and Nico de Boinville in the BetVictor Standard National Hunt Flat Race at Newbury.

The full-brother to the brilliant Douvan – who had changed hands for a record £570,000 at the sales in November after a point-to-point win – was not in any way fazed by this first outing under rules, handling the preliminaries and the race itself with an admirable professionalism.

The 5-6 favourite settled and travelled smoothly – and was too strong for nearest challenger Flying Demon, readily stretching four and a quarter lengths clear at the line.

Henderson said of the six-year-old: “We are very lucky to be sent horses like this, and you’ve got to say you feel the pressure that comes with it. We were waiting for what fortunately happened – he was relaxed during the race and quickened up well.”

Jonbon, who came back to the strains of a Bon Jovi hit, will summer at owner JP McManus’ Martinstown Stud in Ireland, and Henderson added: “We have sighed a sigh of relief and can now dream of what might happen next year. I think he is a bit special.

“He’s a bit of a fidget at home and doesn’t stand still for long, which is one reason I wanted to bring him to Newbury. But he appears to have everything – the pedigree and the looks. He ticks every box you could wish to see and is a gorgeous horse.”

BetVictor cut Jonbon to 12-1 from 16-1 for next year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. Henderson reported he had only done four pieces of work, and already jumps well.

De Boinville also had high praise for the winner.

He said: “I was really impressed with him. I watched his point-to-point, and it was clear he’s come from a very good school in Ireland. Nicky has trained him just like any other horse, irrespective of his price tag.

“It’s the start of his career, and we’re mindful that it it will hopefully be onwards and upwards.”

National destination to be decided for Minella Times

A decision may be imminent on Minella Times’ big-race target this spring – with a choice of Grand Nationals still to be made.

Henry de Bromhead’s improving chaser has attracted market support into 16-1 with Coral for next month’s Randox Grand National, after punters discerned that he is Rachael Blackmore’s most likely ride at Aintree.

Blackmore’s brilliant Cheltenham Festival performance – as top rider at last week’s meeting with six victories, including the Champion Hurdle – has inevitably increased interest in her plans for the Aintree showpiece, which has never yet been won by a female jockey.

Minella Times retains an alternative entry in the Boylesports Irish Grand National, which will be run on Easter Monday – just five days before the equivalent at Liverpool.

The eight-year-old’s target could become clearer on Wednesday – when there is another forfeit stage for the Fairyhouse race – but Frank Berry, racing manager for owner JP McManus, has stressed discussions are ongoing.

“He’s in the Irish National as well – we’ll make a decision on that in the morning,” he said.

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“It’ll be whether he stays in the Irish National, or comes out tomorrow.

“It’s very much up in the air at the minute. Today, it’s 50-50 – we’ll decide in the morning whether he stays in or comes out.”

Minella Times is one of 17 possible Irish Grand National contenders for McManus – among whom however Time To Get Up, a decisive winner of the Midlands version at Uttoxeter on Saturday, is rated “unlikely” to take part.

Rachael Blackmore is Minella Times' regular jockey
Rachael Blackmore is Minella Times’ regular jockey (David Davies/Jockey Club)

Minella Times has yet to race beyond three miles. But in just three starts this season, ridden each time by Blackmore, he followed a Listowel victory by twice staying on well to be runner-up in valuable handicaps at Leopardstown.

“He’s run two good races in two very competitive handicaps,” added Berry.

“I don’t know about the (extra) trip bringing out much improvement – but he ran well in both of them.”

Time To Get Up proved stamina was his forte when he moved up to a marathon distance for the first time at the weekend, and has since been installed as market leader for Fairyhouse.

But Berry said: “It’s unlikely he’ll run (in the Irish National).”

Patience may be required too before the much-anticipated rules debut of another potential McManus star, Jonbon.

Midlands Grand National winner Time To Get Up is rated
Midlands Grand National winner Time To Get Up is rated “unlikely” to run at Fairyhouse (Mike Egerton/PA)

The powerhouse owner bought the five-year-old, full-brother to brilliant dual Cheltenham Festival winner Douvan, for £570,000 shortly after his wide-margin success in his only point-to-point at Dromahane last November.

Jonbon has subsequently gone into training with Nicky Henderson, and is entered in a bumper at Newbury on Saturday.

But the going is forecast to be good, with watering planned during the current dry spell – and Berry said: “He’ll be ground dependent.

“If it gets much drier I’d say you won’t see him there.”

The intention remains to run Jonbon this spring, however, when conditions allow.

“I’m sure it (the rain) will come back again,” added Berry.

“Nicky’s happy with him, (but) it will be ground dependent for Newbury anyway.

“He seems to have settled into Nicky’s nicely, and we’ll see how he gets on when he runs.”

JP McManus swoops for Douvan’s full-brother

Jonbon, a full-brother to Douvan who burst on the scene last weekend when winning a point-to-point by 15 lengths, was sold for £570,000 to JP McManus at Goffs November P2P Sale on Thursday.

As a result the four-year-old is now the most expensive point-to-pointer ever sold at public auction.

Douvan, still in training with Willie Mullins, has been lightly raced in recent seasons due to injury, but has won 15 of his 19 races – eight of them at Grade One level.

Jonbon was consigned by Ellemarie Holden, who trained him to win at Dromahane on his debut when ridden by Derek O’Connor.

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Holden said earlier this week: “Derek thinks very highly of the horse. If it wasn’t for Covid he would have run last season, so he was ready to go.

“He’s a bit of a looker all right. He’s a nice horse and from the day he landed in the yard everything came so easy to him, he’s very straightforward.”

McManus’ racing manager Frank Berry said no decision had yet been made over who will train Jonbon.

“I’ve been tied up most of the day so I don’t know much about it other than he bought him,” said Berry.

“I haven’t discussed anything with anyone (about where he might go) so at the moment I’ve no idea.”

Willie Mullins with Douvan
Willie Mullins with Douvan (PA)

Mullins himself does not expect to take charge of Jonbon.

He said: “I wouldn’t think we’ll get Jonbon.

“I don’t know who’ll get him, although I would have thought Nicky (Henderson) could get him, being bought in England with VAT and everything – he would be very expensive to bring back here.”

Regarding Douvan, who was last seen in public a year ago when winning the Clonmel Oil Chase, Mullins said: “Douvan is in pre-training at the moment, and I don’t have him back in the yard yet.

“We’ll look at him again before Christmas.”

Douvan’s brother set to spark interest at Goffs sale

Jonbon, a full-brother to Douvan who made 15-length winning debut at Dromahane point-to-point on Sunday, has been supplemented for the Goffs UK November Sale.

The sale, which takes place at Yorton Farm in Wales on Thursday, will offer 74 pointers – and there is no disputing who the headline act is likely to be.

Bought for €140,000 at last year’s Tattersalls Ireland Derby Sale, the four-year-old has been trained by Ellemarie Holden and was ridden by Derek O’Connor.

“It’s been a bit mad this morning with the phone ringing and we’ve supplemented him for the sale,” said Holden on Monday.

“The sales seem to be holding up well so hopefully everything will go all right.

“Derek thinks very highly of the horse. If it wasn’t for Covid he would have run last season so he was ready to go.

“He’s a bit of a looker all right. He’s a nice horse and from the day he landed in the yard everything came so easy to him, he’s very straightforward.

“We were confident yesterday, but anything can obviously happen.

“I’d love it if he stayed in the yard – you never know!”