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Press Release 14th March 2023 Cheltenham

By Graham Clark, Nick Seddon, Catherine Austen & Andrew King (TV quotes by Lucy Elder)

Willie Mullins may have had to settle for second place in the opening Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle but it did not take long for The Festival’s winning-most trainer of all-time to saddle his 89th Festival winner when El Fabiolo justified 11-10 Favouritism in the Grade One Sky Bet Arkle Novices’ Chase.

Partnered by Paul Townend, the six year old was in front from the second fence and went on to score by five and a half lengths from Jonbon.

Willie Mullins said: “That was nice. He travelled as well as we were hoping he would the whole way and Paul (Townend) said he hit a flat spot down the back somewhere but then when he picked him up he came alive under him and he was very happy until pecking at the last. I didn’t watch the finish as I was trying to watch our other horse (Dysart Dynamo) that had fallen but thankfully he is okay as he got back up and walked back to the stable yard so he is fine. It was good to get one on board early in the day. It was a bit (heart in mouth at the last) but all being well he looked like he had enough in reserve at that stage and he did so I’m very happy for him. It was (nice to exact revenge on Jonbon) and this is the place to do it.

“Like a lot of those French horses he finds a fifth leg (when they make a mistake) as they have done so much schooling early on in their careers. He seems to be very well balanced and able to find a fifth one when he needs it. I’m not looking to up him in trip yet. If a horse can operate over two miles they are easier to train, easier to keep sound, and just easy altogether. I’m hoping he can stay at that trip and hopefully he will be a Champion Chase horse down the road. I’ve not really had time to assess it (performance compared to Irish Arkle victory).”

Paul Towned said: “I was half afraid Danny [Mullins, on Dystart Dynamo] was getting a bit of a freebie at one point - Danny’s very dangerous in front; my lad likes to get on with it and he wasn’t getting an easy time, either.

“The ground is testing and it is taking a bit of getting, so when I was left on my own he got a little idle round the back, but when I wanted him to race, he came alive for me. He’s not the most natural of jumpers, but at every fence he knows where his feet are and he gets away with it. He’s a strong horse, too - he rubs his fences but gets away with it. He sorts his feet out - he showed me that in Fairyhouse the first day, and the more competitive he is, the better he jumps.

“He did surprise me a bit in the Irish Arkle with the ease he went through the race. I was flat out and looking over at Daryl and looking at wanting to get on his one instead! He’s progressive the whole time. To run to the level he ran to at Aintree last year was a testament to him, and he’s just improving on that all the time.

“He was great to go through on the inner at two fences out and there wasn’t a whole lot there at the last and again, he found his feet on the back of it, but he galloped to the top of the hill in that ground, which is a good sign. It was a sign of a brave horse to go through that gap as well.

“I think he’d have no problem getting further. He’s growing up physically and mentally, so there’s be a lot of options.”

Winning joint-owner Simon Munir told ITV racing: “It means everything. We’ve won the race before with Footpad and we saw what we expected to see, but of course what you expect is often not what you see in the afternoon at racing.”

Fellow joint-owner Isaac Souede said: “He is an athlete. That horse is really an athlete. You can see the power of him, so we are very excited about him.”

On the Closutton team, Munir added: “They are a wonderful team and really their results speak for themselves. The whole racing scene in Ireland is wonderful. It’s all about the horse and we are enjoying a great partnership.”

Isaac Souede, joint owner, said: “That horse is a real athlete and you can see the power in him at the end of the race so we are really excited by him. They are a wonderful team and their results speak for themselves. The whole racing scene in Ireland is wonderful.

“I’m more relaxed now, put it that way. I was a little nervous I admit (when I saw the three of them over the second last) but he is a very athletic horse and we thought he could pull it out and at the last you could see his power as he is such a powerful horse. We had two little heart flutters at the second last and the last. In Willie we trust, and Willie thinks he has got great potential so we will see how he develops. We will enjoy the victory today. I think it is (a step up from his Irish Arkle win) as the competition, as hard it was there, was harder here. I think he is a bit of an underrated jumper, but he likes to give you at least one scare in every race!”

Nicky Henderson said of the runner-up Jonbon: “I think he will be better on better ground and he gallops like that. Still, he has done nothing wrong as the other horse (El Fabiola, winner) was always travelling so well just in behind us and there was little we could do about that

"I am of the opinion that Jonbon will get as far as you like and he will step up to two and a half miles at Aintree next month as I think that will suit him. You would not know how far he will get in time."

2.10pm Sporting Life Arkle Novices' Chase (Grade 1) 2m

  1. El Fabiolo 11/10F
  2. Jonbon 2/1
  3. Saint Roi 11/1

9 ran

Distances: 5½, 6½

Time: 3m 55.22s

24th winner at The Festival for jockey Paul Townend

89th winner at The Festival for trainer Willie Mullins

5th winner at The Festival for owner Simon Munir/Isaac Souede


Ireland 2

Great Britain 0


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