Jonbon, who endured his first defeat over fences when runner-up in the Sporting Like Arkle Novices’ Chase, got back to winning ways with a comfortable success in the Grade One EFT Systems Maghull Novices’ Chase, the opening contest on Grand National Day.
Winning trainer Nicky Henderson said: “He was good today wasn’t he? I think he loves that slightly better ground after it’s dried out a bit today. I think he was a better horse here than he was at Cheltenham, and that’s in part because of the ground. That’s the way he jumps when he’s right. He jumped from fence to fence today and he didn’t at Cheltenham.
“Aidan said on good ground he feels like a two-miler, although I’ve always thought he’d go as far as you like. We don’t have to make any decisions today though.
“I’ve been saying all along he should run in the two-and-a-half miler, but JP said a fortnight ago ‘well what’s going to run in the two-miler,’ as you had to assume Dysart Dynamo wasn’t going to come here and we knew El Fabiolo wasn’t coming either. Knowing that they weren’t coming, he was absolutely right.”
Asked about a potential Punchestown rematch with El Fabiolo, or going to Sandown for Celebration Chase, the trainer added: “I would very much doubt he’d go to Punchestown, and I wouldn’t have thought Sandown either, but you never rule anything out. We haven’t had a chance to chat.
“I know he didn’t win the Arkle, but he’s had a very good first season over fences. He got a bit warm today, but he’s learning to relax. He’s learning all of the time and he’s settling down now.”
Jonbon’s winning jockey Aidan Coleman 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. He’s been painted in the picture of not being the easiest ride and that’s why I’ve always defended him, I’ve never felt it myself and I’m the one riding him. To be fair I haven’t had to defend him this year so maybe people are coming on side!
“He’s here to race and he’s a free sweater, he does that at home. He’s a warm horse and he’s a Walk In The Park, they’re quite precocious types and that’s what they do.The day he’s not warm will probably not be ideal! He’s a very good horse and a very nice horse and I’m just a big fan.”
Henry de Bromhead, trainer of the runner-up Marvel De Cerisy, said: “He was probably not himself today and he didn’t jump as well as he can. Maybe everything caught up with him, but we tried to make a race of it early on. The winner is a very good horse but I’m delighted to finish second. He just looked like he didn’t get home over two and a half on that ground at Cheltenham, but on this ground he probably would.
“We can run him between two and two and a half miles. We will give him a break now and get him back in near the end of the summer as there are some nice races for him then.”
Paddy Neville, trainer of the third Fusain, said: “He ran ok. He jumped well, and he’s a fine horse. It was just a bit quick around here for him and I think a step up in trip might help. I think he’ll probably have another run this season - we might take him round Perth, or something like that. He wants good ground, though.”
1.45pm EFT Systems Maghull Novices' Chase (Grade 1) 2m
1 Jonbon 2/11 Fav
2 Marvel De Cerisy 15/2
3. Fusain 40/1
NR: Banbridge, Notlongtillmay
Distances: 43l, 27l