James Bowen hopes he can ‘get the job done’ on Jonbon at Cheltenham on Festival Trials Day (Saturday 27th January) by demonstrating he is a worthy super sub aboard the multiple Grade One winner in the rearranged My Pension Expert Clarence House Chase.
The 22-year-old will come in for the ride on the Nicky Henderson-trained gelding after stable jockey Nico de Boinville was stood down by a doctor on Wednesday with a sore collarbone having only returned to race riding on Sunday following a spell out with a broken collarbone.
Since returning to action this season Jonbon has answered every question asked of him after making a triumphant return in the Grade Two Shloer Chase at Cheltenham in November before winning the Grade One Betfair Tingle Creek at Sandown Park last month.
And although the JP McManus-owned eight-year-old is a general 1-3 chance to win the Grade One, which was re-routed from the Ascot meeting that was frozen off last weekend, Bowen insists he feels no extra pressure on his shoulders ahead of the extended two-mile test.
Bowen said: “I’m really lucky to get on him and I can’t wait to ride him. Fingers crossed he can get the job done.
“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.”
While switching the race to a left-handed course like Cheltenham might not be in favour of some Bowen believes all tracks come alike to Jonbon, who he also feels will appreciate the return to a sounder surface.
He added: “I’d say he would have been fine around Ascot as he is pretty versatile regarding tracks.
“He was good in the Tingle Creek at Sandown Park, but he was so impressive his first day back in the Shloer Chase. I think Cheltenham is a good track for him.
“I’m sure he won’t mind the ground. It was a bit tacky at Sandown, and I remember when he ran over hurdles as a novice at Haydock that it was tacky ground and he probably didn’t show his best that day, but he still got the job done.
“He probably does appreciate better ground than it was the last day so hopefully he will go well on it here.”
Although Jonbon has been a tricky horse to manage in the past Bowen, who secured the first Grade One of his career for Henderson aboard Jango Baie at Aintree on Boxing Day in the Formby Novices’ Hurdle, believes he is a more mature character thanks to the efforts of his regular work rider Paddy Murphy.
He added: “He was a bit buzzy when he was younger, but Paddy (Murphy) who rides him every day has done a great job with him. He is very easy to switch off and switch back on and he is a pleasure to ride.
“I spoke to Paddy this morning and he said he is in great form so it is fingers crossed now for Saturday.”
Bowen will come in for all de Boinville’s mounts at the weekend with the most exciting of them aside from Jonbon appearing to be fellow Henderson inmate Sir Gino, who will put his unbeaten record on the line when taking on Burdett Road in the JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle.
And Bowen is confident the It’s Gino gelding, who bolted up by 14 lengths on his British debut at Kempton Park last month, can give the James Owen-trained gelding, who won the Golden Gates Stakes at Royal Ascot last year when trained by Michael Bell, plenty to think about.
He said: “Sir Gino is a very nice horse, and he would have learnt a lot from Kempton. I’m expecting him to run well. He laid a marker down that day and since then he has shown all the right signs at home.
“I rode him a couple of times before he ran and I thought he was nice.
“I watched him that day at Kempton and he looked green when he hit the front, but he was impressive.
“Personally, I think he and Burdett Road are closely matched. They have both been impressive, but they have probably not beaten much between them so it will be interesting to see what they do against each other on Saturday.
“It will be a great race to watch I’m sure and I’m looking forward to riding him. I’m confident he is a nice a horse.”