Tag Archive for: Jonbon

Jonbon makes all for Celebration success

Jonbon emerged a convincing victor in his long-awaited clash with El Fabiolo in the bet365 Celebration Chase at Sandown.

The pair had initially been due to meet in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot back in January only to be scuppered by the weather, while a possible Queen Mother Champion Chase face-off did not happen as Jonbon was ruled out by trainer Nicky Henderson during a tough period when his stable was under a cloud.

However, the Seven Barrows team has been resurgent in recent weeks with Jonbon quickly back in action after a hard-fought win when stepped up to two and a half miles in the Melling Chase at Aintree earlier this month.

Ridden with supreme confidence by Nico de Boinville, Jonbon (15-8) was to the fore from the off, putting in some extravagant leaps and turning for home firmly in command.

He fairly flew up the straight, clearing the last with a good advantage and galloped home four lengths in front of the 4-6 favourite El Fabiolo, who made a couple of jumping errors as he failed to atone for a costly mistake at Cheltenham that had seen him pulled up in the Champion Chase.

Henderson said: “I said to Nico after to Fantastic Lady (who came from last to first in the Oaksey Chase), ‘don’t do that in the next’ as that was meant to make the running and he ended up at the back. He knows he has my full trust but I can’t believe he was ever going to drop this lad out and he didn’t.

“We knew a week ago whatever happens we were going to have to go out and drum this race and make it a proper test. We had to test the stamina because we stay two and a half and we had to test everyone’s jumping.

“He’s not flawless as we saw at Cheltenham (when second in the rescheduled Clarence House) but he’s brave and two brave people went out there today and thank goodness they’re all in one piece and we start again next year.

“It was just a shame he couldn’t be at Cheltenham because once El Fabiolo had popped out of the race, then it looked winnable from Jonbon’s point of view. He would have to have jumped round himself but he couldn’t because he wasn’t there.

Nico de Boinville salutes the Sandown crowd
Nico de Boinville salutes the Sandown crowd (John Walton/PA)

“I think he’s regained his place in the pecking order of two-mile chasers. He gets from A to B very quickly.

“He’s flown the flag all year and it was a brave horse to do that today and a brave jockey as well to be fair, as he had to ask him questions.”

Henderson and owner JP McManus will now consider future plans over the summer, with options over a variety of distances on the table.

The trainer added: “I was always thinking the Ascot Chase might be the place to start him next season, but Nico’s now talking about three whereas at Aintree he was saying go back to two! I don’t know what he’s thinking but it doesn’t matter. We’ve got all summer and we can’t ask the horse. We’ve just got to decide ourselves where is his optimum.

“Dusting it up like that and making it a proper test of jumping and galloping is pretty damn good.”

El Fabiolo back in ‘good place’ for latest Jonbon battle

Willie Mullins believes El Fabiolo will need to “bring his A-game” if he is to put Cheltenham Festival disappointment behind him in the bet365 Celebration Chase at Sandown.

The seven-year-old was imperious in winning his first six starts over fences and was prohibitive odds to make it a magnificent seven in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Prestbury Park last month.

However, the French recruit blotted his copybook for the first time since joining Mullins, almost crashing out after a juddering mistake at the fifth fence and he was swiftly pulled up by Paul Townend.

Mullins admits El Fabiolo “wasn’t himself” after returning to Ireland, but feels he is now back on-song ahead of what he considers a difficult test.

“It looks a tough enough race and he’ll have to bring his A-game,” he said.

“It took him a couple of weeks to get over Cheltenham, he just wasn’t himself, but his last few bits of work have been good and David Casey schooled him over four fences on Wednesday morning and said he was very good and very brave, so I’m happy he’s in a good place.”

Mullins does not expect El Fabiolo to have things all his own way in a £170,000 contest which could play a crucial part in deciding whether the Closutton handler is crowed British champion trainer.

Willie Mullins with El Fabiolo and Paul Townend after winning the Hilly Way Chase at Cork
Willie Mullins with El Fabiolo and Paul Townend after winning the Hilly Way Chase at Cork (Niall Carson/PA)

His rivals include a familiar foe in Nicky Henderson’s Jonbon, who prior to the Champion Chase was the only horse to beat El Fabiolo since his arrival in Ireland, having got the better of him in a Grade One novice hurdle at Aintree two years ago, although the Mullins ace has since taken his revenge in last season’s Arkle at Cheltenham.

Mullins added: “It’s going to be a hell of a race, championship or no championship. Jonbon is on home ground and we’re playing an away game coming back from a run where we disappointed.

“Jonbon had a tough race in Aintree, so there’s pros and cons for both horses, so we’ll see.

“It’s going to be a tough and tactical race, I think.”

Jonbon has enjoyed a largely productive campaign, winning the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham, the Tingle Creek at Sandown and bouncing back from a shock defeat in a rearranged Clarence House Chase on Cheltenham Trials Day with victory in the Melling Chase at Aintree two weeks ago.

Henderson told Unibet: “The match we have been waiting for has finally arrived and we are all very much looking forward to it. We did the Aintree-Sandown double 12 months ago, but he did have an easier race at Aintree last year than this, so that has to be taken into consideration.

“Nico (de Boinville) felt that two and a half was about as far as he’d like to go at this stage, so the drop back in trip is an obvious plus and he’s been ticking along nicely at home. It is a fantastic race and I hope that we can come out on top!”

Alan King saddles stable stalwart Edwardstone, who was behind Jonbon on his first two starts of the season but later bounced back to winning ways with a 40-length romp in the Game Spirit at Newbury.

Edwardstone in full flight at Newbury
Edwardstone in full flight at Newbury (Adam Davy/PA)

The 10-year-old fell two fences from home in the Champion Chase last month, but is reported to be in good form ahead of his latest big-race assignment.

King said: “It took him a wee bit of time to get over the fall, but he seems back in good order and I’m happy enough with him.

“It’s a cracking race, as it’s entitled to be. We’ll see what happens.”

Mullins’ title rival Dan Skelton is represented by Nube Negra, but while he is hopeful of a bold showing from his Celebration Chase runner, he has all but conceded the championship already.

Dan Skelton with Nube Negra
Dan Skelton with Nube Negra (Jacob King/PA)

“Nube Negra gets his chance to run on his ground,” Skelton told Racing TV.

“I know he’s a massive price and the two superstars (El Fabiolo and Jonbon) are turning up and everything else, but it’s just nice to be able to go down there and run those types of horses on the ground they like and in really valuable races.”

He added with a wry smile: “We’ll enjoy the day, we’ll applaud Willie and ask him to keep it clean next year!”

Editeur Du Gite (Gary Moore), Boothill (Harry Fry) and Elixir De Nutz (Joe Tizzard) complete the field.

Jonbon set for Sandown defence or Punchestown

Jonbon could defend his Celebration Chase title or head to the Punchestown Festival before the season ends, after forming one half of a Grade One double for Nicky Henderson at Aintree’s Grand National Festival.

The JP McManus-owned eight-year-old was one of a number of big names from Seven Barrows to miss the Cheltenham Festival, with Henderson effectively shutting down operations as a poor run of form hit his Lambourn-based string.

However, he proved his class alongside hot juvenile prospect Sir Gino, as the Henderson team bounced back to form on Merseyside, their time in the doldrums proving short lived.

The Joe and Marie Donnelly-owned Sir Gino is finished for the season after claiming the Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle, but there could be further business for Jonbon to take care of, either at Sandown on the final day of the season or on a raiding mission to Ireland.

Nico de Boinville celebrates aboard Jonbon
Nico de Boinville celebrates aboard Jonbon (David Davies for the Jockey Club/PA)

“Sir Gino, that will be him done, but there is every chance Jonbon could go again and we will have a look at the Celebration Chase or Punchestown,” said Henderson.

“If you wait for Punchestown, you get an extra four days, which might be a help, but I think both of mine, because they hadn’t been to Cheltenham, they probably had a bit of an advantage here.

“There is room to go again with Jonbon and we will see who is going where and what.

“He did it last year in his novice chase season – he went to Sandown for the Celebration and has done the double act before. He probably had an easier race in the novice chase last year than he did on Friday but it was just a very good race.”

It was Jonbon’s first attempt at two and a half miles when successful in the Melling Chase, but he will be dropping back to two miles if he is to be seen again this spring.

However, Henderson is envisaging a return to further after that possible assignment, with plenty to be discussed with owner McManus before the autumn.

“He would have to come back to two miles because there isn’t anything for him over further and then we will have to sit down and think,” he continued.

“I was saying before the race I was sure he would get the two and a half and wouldn’t be surprised if we were soon talking about three (miles).

“Nico (de Boinville) wasn’t that convinced about the three, but we will see and I haven’t discussed it with JP yet – he’s got plenty on his mind at present counting up all his Grade One winners.”

Shishkin in action at Aintree
Shishkin in action at Aintree (Bradley Collyer/PA)

Jonbon is not the only Seven Barrows inmate in line for a trip to the Punchestown Festival, with Shishkin on course for a long-awaited clash with dual Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Galopin Des Champs in the Punchestown Gold Cup.

The 10-year-old could only finish fourth in defence of his Bowl title at Aintree, but Henderson feels the set-up of the Kildare track would suit his multiple Grade One winner much better than Liverpool.

“I would like Shishkin to go to Punchestown and I think he would be ready for it,” added Henderson.

“I think the track would suit him a little bit more than Aintree and he just didn’t look quite sharp enough round there.

“He couldn’t just get out of pockets and holes at the right moment. Tactically, it was a tough race and he just lacked that little bit of zip, so we might zip him up a little bit for Punchestown.”

Melling Chase distance proves just the ticket for Jonbon

Jonbon took the step up in trip in his stride as he roared back to his best with a brave success in the My Pension Expert Melling Chase at Aintree.

Nicky Henderson’s eight-year-old has been campaigned solely at two miles so far over fences and won both the Shloer Chase and Tingle Creek in the early stages of this campaign.

However, a narrow reverse in the rearranged Clarence House was followed by missing the Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival as Henderson effectively shut down his operation on account of the poor stable form.

Nico de Boinville with Jonbon
Nico de Boinville with Jonbon (PA)

Trying two and a half miles for the first time, Jonbon (11-10 favourite) travelled supremely in the hands of Nico de Boinville, with Jack Kennedy keen to make this a stiff stamina test sending Conflated to the lead where he was closely shadowed by Pic D’Orhy and Minella Drama.

Jonbon and Protektorat were always hot on that trio’s tail and as Kennedy continued to pour on the coal aboard Conflated down towards two out, Jonbon loomed menacingly with Protektorat staying on strongly.

Nico de Boinville edged the JP McManus-owned Jonbon to a narrow advantage jumping the last and the Seven Barrows star pulled out all the stops as he kept on right to the line to hold off the game Conflated, with Protektorat back in third after a thrilling conclusion to the Grade One event.

Henderson said: “I don’t know why, but everybody loves him, I know JP does as well.

“He dug very deep today didn’t he? And he had to. His jumping was very slick and it was a great ride – you saw him at his best today.

“All the guys at home do a great job as if you change the routine, you could upset this fella very, very easily. I think we’ve got the hang of him now, we’re learning!

“I always wondered whether we should have been thinking about the Ryanair this year and when we stepped Shishkin up to two and a half we soon realised he actually wanted three. I’m not saying that about Jonbon at the moment as Nico thought that trip was perfect for him around here.

“I think the two and a half is probably ideal, although I’m trying to get Nico to say he’ll stay three. But we can think about those things during the summer.”

“He is a flagship horse. He’s been there a long time now, you can go back to when he was battling El Fabiolo here in a novice hurdle here two years ago – he’s been at the top for a fair old while.

“He’s just been a star all the way through and we love him, I hope he loves us!”

On the stable’s return to form, he added: “This horse was one of the special ones, obviously. I think we’re getting through it quite nicely now, that was great with Sir Gino yesterday and they’re all running well.

“This horse is a bit special, he’s been at the top of his game for a few years now and has never missed a beat. We can enjoy this one.

“We’ll never know whether missing Cheltenham has helped us with the horses coming here, you could say it’s possibly in our favour. The other horses have been to Prestbury Park and we were sadly stuck in our box at home with all of them.”

Jonbon was too good for Conflated (right)
Jonbon was too good for Conflated (right) (David Davies/Jockey Club)

De Boinville said: “I’m delighted with that, very happy. He showed what a true champion he is, he’s very versatile as you can ride him how you want and he seems to get most trips.

“It was an end-to-end gallop and everyone turned up who needed to. It was a true championship race, there was no hiding place out there.

“I had no doubts about the trip particularly, I thought he might relish it. He had to fight in the end and he was very strong in the finish.

“I thought he jumped great and travelled well and finished out well against other good horses.

“We’ve got the whole summer to think about what we do with him next season.”

Jonbon has been the mount of Aidan Coleman in recent seasons but De Boinville stepped in after Coleman sustained what proved to be a career-ending knee injury last June.

He added: “I’d like to give a special mention to Aidan because it would have been his ride this season, I wish him all the best in his retirement.”

Nicky Henderson after winning the Melling Chase
Nicky Henderson after winning the Melling Chase (David Davies/Jockey Club)

Finishing second in a Grade One for the second time on the day, Elliott said: “I’m delighted with the run, but gutted he didn’t win. The horse gave it everything but we’ve no excuses, he was beaten by a better horse on the day. It’s always disappointing when you are second but when they do nothing wrong you have to be happy.

“I think he’s probably run a career-best to be honest, he’s a great horse. The winner wasn’t at Cheltenham so was a fresh horse and I’m delighted for Nicky because he’s a great man.”

Dan Skelton said of third home Protektorat: “Harry (Skelton) will get off and say his jumping could have been a bit slicker, but around this track I wouldn’t think that is far off a career-best. They went very hard the whole way.

“I know we beat Conflated at Cheltenham, but the complexion of that race was as good as I’ve seen to be honest. I’m very proud of him and proud of how he has kept himself together for a whole season.

“This has shown the Ryaniar wasn’t just his day and I’m looking forward to next year more than I was this year.”

Jonbon steps up for Melling Chase challenge

Jonbon steps up to two and a half miles for the first time in Friday’s ultra-competitive My Pension Expert Melling Chase at Aintree.

Nicky Henderson’s charge has won multiple Grade Ones over the minimum trip but connections have been minded to try him over further for some time.

Having missed the Cheltenham Festival due to concerns over the form of his string, Henderson will be hoping for a better display than the one which saw him beaten at 1-4 in the rearranged Clarence House Chase when he made several jumping errors.

Taking him on are this year’s Ryanair winner Protekorat and the 2022 winner of that race Envoi Allen.

Protektorat (right) beat Envoi Allen at Cheltenham
Protektorat (right) beat Envoi Allen at Cheltenham (Adam Davy/PA)

Protekorat had spent a large part of the previous two seasons running over three miles but excelled dropped in trip last month, while Envoi Allen put up a game defence of his title in second.

Paul Nicholls won the race last year with Pic D’Orhy and the nine-year-old is back again searching for a valuable win for his handler in the race to be champion trainer.

Gordon Elliott’s Conflated also runs in this in preference to the Grand National, with Easy Game and Minella Drama completing the field.

Two smart mares, Golden Ace and Dysart Enos, will meet again in the TrustATrader Top Novices’ Hurdle.

Fergal O’Brien’s Dysart Enos came out on top when they met in a Grade Two bumper at this meeting 12 months ago but she was denied her chance to go for glory at Cheltenham due to a minor setback.

Dysart Enos was denied the chance to run at Cheltenham
Dysart Enos was denied the chance to run at Cheltenham (David Davies/PA)

In her absence Jeremy Scott’s Golden Ace won the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle, beating some well-touted Irish contenders.

Standing in their way is Willie Mullins’ Supreme runner-up Mystical Power, the third Firefox and Ben Pauling’s promising Personal Ambition in a field of eight.

There are six in the Huyton Asphalt Franny Blennerhassett Memorial Mildmay Novices’ Chase and none can be confidently ruled out.

Cheltenham winner Inothewayurthinkin and Kim Bailey’s Chianti Classico will have plenty of supporters.

Henry de Bromhead sends over Heart Wood, Broadway Boy gets the chance to atone for missing Cheltenham, with Giovinco and Iroko not out of it either.

The Mullins-trained Dancing City and Readin Tommy Wrong, Shanagh Bob, Croke Park and The Jukebox Man, agonisingly reeled in by Stellar Story in the Albert Bartlett, are among nine in the Cavani Sartorial Menswear Sefton Novices’ Hurdle.

Aidan Coleman announces retirement following injury battle

Aidan Coleman has announced his retirement from the saddle having failed to recover from a knee injury.

The 35-year-old suffered a fall at Worcester in June and has been battling to return ever since, undergoing several surgeries on his knee and a shattered tibia.

Coleman, who will possibly be best remembered for his association with the recently-retired Paisley Park, has undergone a lengthy rehabilitation process but has conceded he will not recover sufficiently to resume his riding career.

“The prognosis early was quite bleak about returning to ride,” he told Racing TV’s Luck On Sunday.

“But around September when the rehab was early I was kidding myself that I could get back from this. In early December I had another operation and since that the progress has really plateaued.

“The gym is good because it’s a stable surface but I can’t run or jump. I can’t ride a horse really. A lot of people would say I couldn’t anyway so what’s the difference!

“Since Christmas, every time I’ve tried to ride a horse it’s not really gone well and I just can’t really do it and I definitely wouldn’t be able to ride in a race or anything like that.

“Speaking to Jerry Hill (the BHA’s chief medical adviser) and my surgeon, my chances of improving are negative now, so that’s it. My knee won’t stand the demands of being a jockey or get anywhere near it, so that’s it.”

Aidan Coleman with Paisley Park
Aidan Coleman with Paisley Park (John Walton/PA)

Coleman enjoyed a successful association early in his career with Venetia Williams but overlooked her 100-1 Grand National winner Mon Mome in favour of stablemate Stan.

There were many good days in a stellar career, though, with Emma Lavelle’s Paisley Park winning the Long Walk Hurdle three times and the Stayers’ Hurdle in 2019.

Coleman also picked up the rides on Epatante, winning an Aintree Hurdle and two Fighting Fifths, and Jonbon, on whom he won multiple Grade Ones.

“I think the last few years I’ve been at my happiest, riding horses like Paisley Park has been a mainstay since 2019, we picked up Epatante, Jonbon, winning the Champion Chase on Put The Kettle On. I would have a good army of behind me when I got to September and they hit the board regularly,” said Coleman.

“I kind of gave up the idea of being champion jockey and being a slave to the game, that just wasn’t for me. I enjoyed the good horses so much I just wanted to focus on them rather than the numbers and since I did that I think I rode better.”

Henderson non-runners include Champion Chase hope Jonbon

Nicky Henderson has reacted to his overall poor results on the opening day of this year’s Cheltenham Festival by withdrawing several runners on day two, including Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase hope Jonbon.

Henderson went into this year’s Festival under a cloud following the withdrawal of Champion Hurdle title holder Constitution Hill and a disappointing run of form from his stable as a whole.

Luccia provided the Seven Barrows handler with a boost when finishing third behind State Man in the Champion Hurdle, but his other five runners on Tuesday were all pulled up.

Henderson posted on X: “I’m afraid we have had to make some very tough decisions following the very disappointing performances of all bar one of our horses yesterday.

“It was there for all to see that there is obviously something affecting nearly all our horses and consequently we have reluctantly decided that Jonbon, First Street and Kingston Pride will not run today.

“It is impossible to identify any reason for all the disappointments and none of these horses have given us any cause for concern and all yesterday’s runners were scoped clean post race and I am glad to say all are sound this morning.

“There will unfortunately be further non-runners on Thursday and Friday.

“I hope everybody will appreciate that we have to do this in everybody’s interests, particularly the horses. It is very, very disappointing for everybody.”

Among Henderson’s high-profile entries for the rest of the week is JCB Triumph Hurdle favourite Sir Gino.

Regarding Sir Gino Henderson said: “Sir Gino, at the moment, is a definite intended runner.

“There were rumours flying around last week that something was amiss, but there’s nothing wrong with him at all at the moment. But a day is a long time with these horses.

“He was great this morning, his blood and everything is good and all being well he’ll be here.”

Henderson backing Jonbon to mount strong Champion challenge

Nicky Henderson is optimistic Jonbon can give familiar foe El Fabiolo a run for his money when they clash for a third time in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham on Wednesday.

Jonbon was a narrow victor when the top-class pair first clashed in a Grade One novice hurdle at Aintree in April 2022, but El Fabiolo took his revenge 12 months ago when running out a facile winner of the Arkle Trophy.

With Jonbon making a fine start to his season with wins in the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham and the Tingle Creek at Sandown, and El Fabiolo successful on his reappearance in the Hilly Way at Cork, their rivalry was scheduled to resume in January’s Clarence House Chase, but the abandonment of racing at Ascot meant they instead went their separate ways.

While El Fabiolo stretched his unbeaten record over fences to six at the Dublin Racing Festival, Jonbon suffered a shock reverse in a rescheduled Clarence House on Cheltenham Trials day, with Henderson of the opinion that the extra week proved detrimental to his charge.

“I was really looking forward to Ascot and the clash with El Fabiolo, we were in absolute tip-top shape and I was very confident for that, we were very prepared for it,” he said.

“Jonbon is the one horse, when you’ve wound up the clock, a week was a long time for him, I couldn’t wind him up anymore and it gave us a headache of a week.

“They’ll go some gallop in the Champion Chase and I think that suits him. It looks as if Edwardstone has come into pacemaking duties and he looked very good at Newbury, but in some ways I don’t think that is a bad thing for us.”

El Fabiolo in action at Leopardstown
El Fabiolo in action at Leopardstown (Niall Carson/PA)

El Fabiolo will look to provide Willie Mullins and Paul Townend with a third successive Champion Chase victory following the back-to-back triumphs of Energumene.

Townend said: “He’s made the step into open company well this year and goes here off the back of a good win at the Dublin Racing Festival. He’s another exciting one for the week.”

Edwardstone won the 2022 Arkle for Alan King, and while he was no match for Jonbon in either the Shloer or the Tingle Creek earlier in the season, he looked right back to his best under a positive ride in last month’s Game Spirit Chase at Newbury.

“He’s never really been away and his two runs behind Jonbon were very good. All right his run at Kempton over two and a half (miles) didn’t work, which was disappointing, but he has done very little wrong in his life,” said King.

“He’s in good order, but this is a totally different ball game to the Game Spirit.”

On whether Edwardstone could attempt to make all the running, the trainer added: “We’ll worry about tactics on the day, but there will be plenty of pace on and the Tizzard horse (Elixir De Nutz) will go forward. We’re certainly not going to drop him in, but we’ll see what happens.

“We’ve had a good preparation, but it’s up to him now. It’s nice to be part of it, but I’m not going there with any great expectations that we are going to win it.”

Elixir De Nutz was the horse that inflicted defeat upon Jonbon in the Clarence House, a first Grade One success for trainer Joe Tizzard and his nephew rider Freddie Gingell.

Tizzard feels he merits his place in the Champion Chase field, even if he is a big outsider.

Elixir De Nutz (right) sees off Jonbon in the Clarence House Chase at Cheltenham
Elixir De Nutz (right) sees off Jonbon in the Clarence House Chase at Cheltenham (David Davies/The Jockey Club)

He said: “He’s in top nick and Fred had a sit on him last Monday. He’s ready to go.

“He’s probably had his Gold Cup this season but if there are any flaws in the others, then he will be bang there.”

The Henry de Bromhead-trained Captain Guinness was best of the rest behind Energumene in last year’s renewal and is back for more after placing third behind El Fabiolo at Leopardstown.

“He was just a bit unfortunate at Christmas, but other than that he’s been brilliant,” said De Bromhead.

“It would be amazing if he could go one better than last year, fingers crossed.”

El Fabiolo and Jonbon clash in Champion Chase

El Fabiolo and Jonbon head a list of eight runners in Wednesday’s Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham.

The big two will clash for the third time, with honours even heading into this year’s Festival showdown.

Jonbon struck the first blow in the Top Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree two years ago, but El Fabiolo was a decisive victor in last season’s Arkle.

Edwardstone has been beaten twice by Jonbon this term but can boast a previous Festival success on his extensive CV, having landed the 2022 Arkle.

Captain Guinness was second to Energumene in this contest 12 months ago, while Elixir De Nutz will bid to follow up his surprise triumph over Jonbon in January’s rescheduled Clarence House Chase at Prestbury Park.

Boothill, 2022 Champion Chase runner-up Funambule Sivola and Gentleman De Mee complete the line-up.

Ballyburn will be a red-hot favourite to kick off day two of this year’s Festival with victory in the Gallagher Novices’ Hurdle, with just seven rivals set to take him on.

His trainer Willie Mullins will also saddle four of those, including Naas Grade One runner-up Ile Atlantique and Predators Gold, who has been second twice at elite level at Leopardstown.

Ben Pauling’s Handstands heads the home team after completing a hat-trick of wins over timber in the Listed-class Sidney Banks at Huntingdon.

Last year’s Champion Bumper second Fact To File features among six entries still standing in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase, having already claimed Grade One glory over fences for Mullins at the Dublin Racing Festival.

Paul Nicholls will be represented by Stay Away Fay, who prevailed in the Albert Bartlett 12 months ago.

However, Nigel Twiston-Davies was forced to withdraw Broadway Boy following an unsatisfactory tracheal wash and Dan Skelton has left out Grey Dawning.

Former Gold Cup hero Minella Indo is one of a dozen runners in the Glenfarclas Chase, which will also feature last year’s Gordon Elliott one-two of Delta Work and Galvin.

Mullins is set to saddle nine runners in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper, as he bids to win that contest for a record-extending 13th time.

Jonbon ‘in good form’ ahead of El Fabiolo Festival clash

Nicky Henderson is unconcerned that Jonbon is heading for his big clash with El Fabiolo in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase on the back of a defeat.

For a horse who has won 12 of his 15 races under rules, the Seven Barrows handler also reads nothing into the fact that all three of his defeats have come at Cheltenham.

Stablemate Constitution Hill beat him in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle two years ago, while El Fabiolo saw him off in the Arkle last term. Most recently, in a performance littered with jumping errors, he was beaten in the rearranged Clarence House Chase as the 1-4 favourite.

He did begin this season with a comfortable win at Cheltenham, though, and that is why Henderson sees no reason to worry.

Nicky Henderson with
Nicky Henderson with “fidget” Jonbon (David Davies/PA)

“He’s schooled this morning, AP (McCoy) was here to see him. He’s in good form, very good,” said Henderson.

“We’ve done nothing different (since the Clarence House). You just put it down as one mistake. You’ve got to. He schooled this morning and jumped more than he will in the Queen Mother.

“He won the Shloer, that proves he goes around Cheltenham, I’ve no worries on that front.”

With Alan King’s Edwardstone looking a reformed character having adopted front-running tactics in the Game Spirit Chase, Henderson feels the Queen Mother will be run to suit Jonbon.

He said: “They’ll go some gallop and I think that suits him. It looks as if Edwardstone has come into pace-making duties and he looked good at Newbury, but in some ways, I don’t think that is a bad thing for us. But I would have been happy to make the running.

“AP thought he was very good (Thursday morning) and would love to ride him himself – of all the horses, I know he’d love to ride him because he would suit him. AP has watched him school so many times.

“There’s one fence in our row of five he always meets on the wrong stride but he is so quick sorting his feet out. I think AP would love the challenge of him. While Constitution is straightforward, he is a bit the other way, he tests you, we call him fidgety.

“He did well really last time (to get back on terms), the thing that cost him was the last fence, not the mistake down the hill. If he’d met it on a better stride, it would have been game over, but he landed in a bit of a heap and the other horse just got away from him.”

A step up in trip had been discussed at the end of last season but he was not even entered in the Ryanair this year.

“We discussed it but never put him in the Ryanair. I would have no problem going over two and a half,” said Henderson.

“If you go back to last year, he was going to go over two and a half at Aintree and it was only because the two-mile novice chase was miles weaker that he ran in it, so we stayed at two and he winged round Aintree.

“A fortnight later, we took him to Sandown against his elders to find out and he winged round there, so we said he was a two-miler. I’d be surprised if one day he doesn’t go over further. We’ll find out between now and the end of the season, let’s see how it all goes.”

The rematch with El Fabiolo was all set for the original Clarence House at Ascot but when the race was moved to Cheltenham, Willie Mullins decided to keep his chaser at home.

“I was really looking forward to Ascot and the clash with El Fabiolo, we were in absolute tip-top shape and I was very confident for that, we were very prepared for it,” explained Henderson.

“He’s the one horse, when you’ve wound up the clock, a week was a long time for him, I couldn’t wind him up any more and it gave us a headache of a week.

“People might say what difference does a week make, but to something like him it does. With Constitution Hill, you could hold him for a month, but Jonbon is a bit different to anybody else.

“He might have had a harder race than we imagined from the betting, but until he made that mistake down the hill, everything had gone really nice.”

Elixir Du Nutz shocks favourite Jonbon in Clarence contest

There was a huge shock in the My Pension Expert Clarence House Chase as Elixir De Nutz battled back to beat Jonbon, providing jockey Freddie Gingell and trainer Joe Tizzard with a first Grade One win.

The race was rearranged from Ascot last week and expected to be dominated by Jonbon in the absence of El Fabiolo, but he rarely looked at ease.

He jumped slowly in the early stages as Elixir De Nutz (22-1) helped set the pace, getting into a great rhythm under Gingell.

Nicky Henderson’s Jonbon eventually got on an even keel and coming down the hill looked set to stamp his authority on the race.

However, the 1-4 favourite, ridden by James Bowen for the first time, ploughed through the fourth last, almost getting rid of Bowen and losing all momentum.

To his credit Jonbon looked to have done enough to triumph heading to the final fence but he again jumped poorly, allowing Elixir De Nutz and Gingell another chance and they took it with both hands, winning by a neck.

Gingell is the son of Tizzard’s late sister, Kim, and is already in demand with champion trainer Paul Nicholls.

Coral pushed Jonbon out to 7-2 from 9-4 for the Champion Chase while El Fabiolo is now the 1-2 favourite.

Jonbon led Elixir De Nutz over the last
Jonbon led Elixir De Nutz over the last (Nigel French/PA)

Henderson said: “James said he did remarkably well to get back to where he did, but he had a fair bit of ground to make up.

“He didn’t see a nice stride at the last and I think if he had winged that – he just lost the momentum that let the other horse back.

“He’s lost a battle but not the war. I only saw one mistake.

“He’s quite a busy person and lives on his wits a little bit. The extra week wasn’t exactly what he wanted, because he is a clock that you wind up. We can now unwind it and start again.

“We were really looking forward to El Fabiolo last weekend and I can’t believe that has changed anything dramatically. We’ve just got to go and let him off a little bit and start the preparations for March.”

Tizzard, who took over the licence from his father Colin at the start of last season, hailed a “special” day in his training career.

“It’s a special day and I didn’t come here thinking I would win a Grade One, but I was happy to take our chance with a horse who has been brilliant all season,” said Tizzard.

“He bounces off this ground and drying ground all week has helped. Jonbon, what a mistake at the top of the hill, and he looked to have us beat. But we’ve probably outjumped him at the last. As long as they are all OK that’s all right, but it was our day today and it’s special.

“Freddie could have panicked (after three out) and could have gone for his stick and sent him on but he didn’t, he just saved a little bit and I will look forward to watching it back with him again.

“I wouldn’t mind being in his position, 18 years old and he has it all in front of him. Days like this don’t phase him. I’m biased but he’s done me proud and his mum would be so proud – what she has put into him has made him the man he is.”

Jonbon ready to take advantage of El Fabiolo absence

Nicky Henderson’s Jonbon bids to continue a fine season in the My Pension Expert Clarence House Chase at Cheltenham on Saturday.

The eight-year-old has won both starts this term, taking the Shloer Chase by nine and a half lengths ahead of Edwardstone on his seasonal debut in November.

He then went to Sandown for the Tingle Creek, beating the same rival again to claim a two-and-three-quarter-length victory on heavy ground.

Nico de Boinville took the ride on both occasions to deputise for Jonbon’s usual rider Aidan Coleman, who is out injured, but De Boinville himself is now on the sidelines and James Bowen has been called up in his absence.

The contest was scheduled to take place at Ascot last weekend but when the meeting was called off due to frost, Cheltenham became the alternative host, scuppering an anticipated clash with Willie Mullins’ El Fabiolo.

Jonbon
Jonbon (Nigel French/PA)

Frank Berry, racing manager to owner JP McManus, said: “Nicky is very happy with him and we’re hoping for a good run and that all goes well. We’re looking forward to him.

“It will be nice ground there and it can only be a benefit to him to get some more Cheltenham experience.

“James is riding really well and riding plenty of winners and we’re looking forward to seeing him riding him.”

Henderson added via his Unibet blog: “It is a job well done by the Jockey Club and the British Horseracing Authority to get this race restaged and we are very happy to be taking part.

“Unfortunately, it’s not the clash we all wanted with El Fabiolo, but Jonbon is there and in great form at home.

Jonbon winning the Shloer Chase
Jonbon winning the Shloer Chase (David Davies/PA)

“James has done plenty of schooling on him, primarily because we had him on standby for Ascot in case Nico wasn’t back in time, but as it was the race was off anyway. Hopefully this will set him up nicely for the Festival.”

Jonbon will face four rivals, amongst them Gary Moore’s Editeur Du Gite – fourth behind him in the Shloer and the winner of the Desert Orchid last time out.

Elixir De Nutz, third in the Desert Orchid and the winner of the Haldon Gold Cup, is also running for Joe Tizzard and Freddie Gingell.

Richard Hobson’s Fugitif, winner of the December Gold Cup at the track, is set to be ridden by Gavin Sheehan as Dan Skelton’s Nube Negra completes the field.

Bowen looking forward to Jonbon opportunity

James Bowen is relishing the opportunity to ride Jonbon after injury has ruled out Seven Barrows stable jockey Nico de Boinville.

De Boinville broke his collarbone in a fall at Doncaster last month and returned to action at Lingfield on Sunday after a spell on the sidelines.

He took up a total of 11 rides, including a winner at Warwick on Monday, but after his narrow loss aboard Ilfu Un Mome at Chepstow on Wednesday, the rider decided to rule himself out of the weekend’s action.

“Nico was sore after yesterday, so he won’t be riding this weekend,” said De Boinville’s agent Sam Stronge.

“We’ll just take it day by day and see how it is next week. It’s unfortunate, we obviously tried to do our best as quickly as we could, and after riding for a couple of days he obviously wasn’t quite right.

Nico de Boinville and Jonbon after winning the Shloer Chase
Nico de Boinville and Jonbon after winning the Shloer Chase (Nigel French/PA)

“The sensible thing to do when you’ve got big rides like that (Jonbon) is to not let everybody down. It’s a very difficult decision, but we’ll take it day by day and hopefully he’ll be back next week.”

In De Boinville’s absence, the ride on Jonbon in Saturday’s rescheduled My Pension Expert Clarence House Chase at Cheltenham will go to Bowen, often the deputy for trainer Nicky Henderson.

“I’m really lucky to get on him and I can’t wait to ride him. Fingers crossed, he can get the job done,” said the jockey.

“I was thinking I might get on him last weekend, but Nico got back and then it was called off.

“He is the best horse in the race and odds-on shots are the ones you want to be riding. You just need the right horse to ride in these Grade One races and hopefully I can get the job done, but it is also up to him as well.

“I think it gives you great confidence when the owner and trainer are willing to put you on a horse like Jonbon. If they are happy enough for you to ride, that is what gives you the most confidence going out there.”

Nico De Boinville misses Jonbon ride at Cheltenham

Nico de Boinville will miss Friday’s action at Sandown and the plum ride on Jonbon at Cheltenham on Saturday to give himself more time to fully recover from the broken collarbone he suffered in a fall at Doncaster last month.

The leading jockey returned from nearly a month on the sidelines at Lingfield last Sunday and has since taken up a total of 11 rides, including a winner at Warwick on Monday.

However, having suffered a narrow defeat aboard 11-8 favourite Ilfu Un Mome at Chepstow on Wednesday – his only ride on the card – De Boinville has made the difficult decision to withdraw from the upcoming action, meaning James Bowen will take over aboard Jonbon in Saturday’s Clarence House Chase.

“Nico was sore after yesterday, so he won’t be riding this weekend,” said De Boinville’s agent Sam Stronge.

“We’ll just take it day by day and see how it is next week. It’s unfortunate, we obviously tried to do our best as quickly as we could, and after riding for a couple of days he obviously wasn’t quite right.

“The sensible thing to do when you’ve got big rides like that (Jonbon) is to not let everybody down. It’s a very difficult decision, but we’ll take it day by day and hopefully he’ll be back next week.”

Reigning champ Editeur Du Gite ready to face Jonbon

Jonbon is the headline act among six entries for the rearranged Clarence House Chase at Cheltenham – but Gary Moore is hoping history will repeat itself for defending champion Editeur Du Gite.

Nicky Henderson’s Tingle Creek hero began his campaign with victory in the Shloer Chase at Prestbury Park in November and was fully on course for a clash with old adversary El Fabiolo at the race’s traditional home of Ascot last Saturday.

With that card falling victim to the weather, the Seven Barrows handler was eager for the race to be swiftly rearranged to the Cheltenham Festival Trials Day, as it was when Editeur Du Gite downed Edwardstone and Energumene in a thrilling contest 12 months ago.

Jonbon is unbeaten in two starts this term
Jonbon is unbeaten in two starts this term (John Walton/PA)

There is set to be no Irish representation this time around, with as expected El Fabiolo keeping his powder dry in favour of the Dublin Chase at Leopardstown a week later.

But Jonbon will head to the Cotswolds, with Moore also keen to add Editeur Du Gite’s name to the mix on the back of his second Desert Orchid Chase victory over the Christmas period.

“It would be nice wouldn’t it, if lightning could strike twice,” said Moore.

“He seems in good order and the horse is very well – he’s entitled to take his chance.

“We’re under no illusions we will beat Jonbon, but I just hope he runs a big race – I’m sure he will.”

Dan Skelton’s Nube Negra got the better of Elixir De Nutz in the battle for second when three lengths adrift of Editeur Du Gite at Kempton last month and both are set to reoppose in the Grade One contest.

Despite struggling to make an impression so far this term, Venetia Williams’ Funambule Sivola finished second in the Champion Chase behind Energumene in 2022 and represents a team in good order.

Richard Hobson’s December Gold Cup hero Fugitif completes the entries but is also engaged in the £100,000 Paddy Power Cheltenham Countdown Podcast Handicap Chase on the card.