'That's what we've been waiting for' - Jonbon sparkles on chase debut

WARWICK, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 16: Aidan Coleman riding Jonbon clear the last to win The Highflyer Bloodstock Novices' Chase at Warwick Racecourse on November 16, 2022 in Warwick, England. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)
Jonbon: beat Monmiral by seven lengths on his first start over fences at WarwickCredit: Alan Crowhurst (Getty Images)

Wednesday: Highflyer Bloodstock Novices' Chase, Warwick

A week after Paddy Power paid out on Jonbon to win the Arkle, the Nicky Henderson-trained Grade 1-winning hurdler scored in style on his chasing debut under Aidan Coleman.

Bought for £570,000 by JP McManus after bolting up in his point-to-point at Dromahane two years ago, Jonbon beat all his rivals bar Supreme Novices' Hurdle winner and stablemate Constitution Hill in five starts over hurdles last season, and he delivered a classy performance in the Highflyer Bloodstock Novices' Chase that puts him in pole position for the Arkle at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

This was no ordinary midweek 2m novice chase, with Monmiral – a top-level hurdle winner as a juvenile for the in-form Paul Nicholls – also making his chasing debut, and last year’s Greatwood winner West Cork making up a select but talented trio.

Coleman made the running on Jonbon, who jumped superbly at a frenetic gallop, with Monmiral able to lie up with the pace until the third-last before folding to finish a seven-length second, with West Cork a distant third.

Jonbon's performance came after some impressive displays on the gallops this month, prompting Paddy Power to pay out on the son of Walk In The Park for the Arkle before he had even jumped a fence in public.

“He’s done what we hoped would happen,” said a relieved Henderson. “We were having a great time over hurdles but that’s what we’ve been waiting for with this horse all along.

“All of ours have been needing a run and that was my only worry there. Monmiral went to test him and he was certainly fit enough.

"Aidan said you could do anything with him. He’ll get two and a half standing on his head if you want him to, but he’s proved there you don’t need two and a half. They were smart hurdlers and we didn’t hang around there.”

Jonbon’s brother Douvan won the Arkle in 2016 but it could be a more recent Arkle winner that the six-year-old attempts to emulate with Sandown’s Grade 1 Henry VIII Novices' Chase on December 3 next on the agenda.

Edwardstone recorded his first win over fences in the Warwick feature and took the Henry VIII en route to Arkle glory last season. Jonbon is a general 2-1 chance for the latter after his stunning performance and Henderson said: “I’ve got two and a half weeks until the Henry VIII. It’s quite tight but you couldn’t go there first time out so hopefully that takes us into that.”

WARWICK, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 16: Aidan Coleman riding Jonbon clear the last to win The Highflyer Bloodstock Novices' Chase at Warwick Racecourse on November 16, 2022 in Warwick, England. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)
Jonbon: Arkle favourite likely to tackle Grade 1 company at Sandown nextCredit: Alan Crowhurst (Getty Images)

Henderson was forced to miss Cheltenham’s Paddy Power meeting at the weekend on doctor’s orders, but Jonbon's success would have been a big tonic for the Seven Barrows trainer, who plans to run Constitution Hill at Ascot on Saturday.

“They checked me in and locked me up,” said Henderson. "Luckily I found the key! This is the first of the A team to come out and then we have Saturday so it’s nice to get going. We’ve been behind, I don’t like playing on fast ground and it’s been too quick at home.”

Monmiral will likely reoppose Jonbon in the Henry VIII with Nicholls satisfied with the runner-up’s first outing over fences. “I think he’ll come on a lot for the run and we’ll still head off to Sandown,” said the champion trainer.

“It was always our plan, stiffer track, softer ground, that would be in our favour a little bit. Harry [Cobden] said don’t be afraid to go to better races and stick to our plan, so we will.

“I was a bit worried whether he would jump as well as he did because he’s been a bit French jumping his hurdles, but he was good. We can build on that enormously. The winner obviously was impressive but Monmiral will probably take a step forward, he'll need to to beat Jonbon.”

West Cork, who chased home another Nicholls Grade 1-winning hurdler in Stage Star at Warwick’s last meeting, will be found a weaker novice chase for his next assignment.

Trainer Dan Skelton said: “It was a grand run, he’s just not as good as those two. If you look at the hurdle ratings that’s exactly where he was.”

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Charlie HugginsReporter
Published on 17 November 2022Last updated 18:05, 17 November 2022