Jonbon (2-5 Favourite) sent his name right to the front of the reckoning for next year’s Sporting Life Arkle Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival, courtesy of a stunning chasing debut in the Highflyer Bloodstock Novices' Chase at Warwick this afternoon.
Nicky Henderson’s charge was one of the leading lights of the novice hurdling scene last term, earning Grade One honours at the Randox Grand National Festival at Aintree, and he looked to have a tough assignment on his chasing debut.
Facing up against the son of Walk In The Park was a select pair in the form of a Grade One winning juvenile hurdler in Monmiral and last season’s Greatwood Hurdle winner West Cork and Jonbon’s dominance was clear from an early stage – with the latter struggling to land a blow on the front pair.
Jonbon’s jumping was impressive throughout and having built up a 10-length lead approaching the home turn, jockey Aidan Coleman was able to ease his charge down after the last fence for a seven-length success in the famous silks of champion Jump owner J P McManus.
That victory saw Jonbon shortened into 2-1 favouritism for next year’s Arkle with Betfair/Paddy Power and a delighted Henderson revealed that his charge would now head to Sandown Park for next month’s Grade One Henry VIII Novices’ Chase (Saturday 3rd December).
The master of Seven Barrows said: “This was always going to be his game but he was a very high class novice hurdler last season. There was only one horse better than him and he’s safely tucked up at Seven Barrows hopefully ready for Saturday (Constitution Hill), so this was always going to be his game.
“It’s what we hoped for but it’s just a huge relief now it’s over. He jumps and he gallops and it’s a great racecourse and beautiful ground, so it was a good test for him. The fences have to be jumped here so it was a perfect start for him to be honest with you.
“This isn’t a racecourse to take lightly for a novice over fences, but he was pretty flawless there. I liked how he was a bit long at the ditch and then he sort of danced in and he was perfect all the way.
“Most of our hoses are needing the run and coming on for it and I don’t see why he won’t be the same. He was fit enough to do what he had to do today minding that the timing wasn’t ideal, as we couldn’t find many races that could lead us into the Henry VIII at Sandown.
“We’ve got two and a half weeks now and it just gives us a bit of time before Sandown. You couldn’t go there first time out so this has served its purpose - It’s a beginning and he’s exciting.”
Winning jockey Aidan Coleman commented: “It’s your job to give him marks out of 10, it’s mine to ride him! That was very straightforward, he jumped very well and won nicely so it’s a great start.
“Monmiral is a very good horse and we were only a few pounds clear of him on the ratings (over hurdles) so you wouldn’t have thought coming here that it would have been the one horse race that people were making it out to be.
“I suppose at the line he won well and it was everything I wanted to see. He was lovely in the preliminaries and in the race so it’s a great start.”
Meanwhile, trainer Paul Nicholls was pleased with what he saw from the runner-up Monmiral (11-4). He said: “We’re thrilled with that, he had a nice clear round and jumped well. He’ll improve for that and we’ll probably head off to Sandown next for the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase.
“It’s a different day and a different track, so I’d say he’ll come on a lot for that on his next run. He came in a bit later and I was a bit concerned with how he might jump today but Harry (Cobden) was thrilled with his jumping – he said he’d come on tonnes for the run so I’m thrilled.
“The winner was really good and is favourite for the Arkle on the back of it, but we’ve a long way to go between now and then. He’s a very smart horse without a shadow of a doubt and will be very hard to beat but we were always going to come here and then go to Sandown and I’d suspect we still will. Hopefully the ground will be a bit more testing there, but I was very pleased.”
Meanwhile, jockey Tom Scudamore was delighted by the performance of the 10 year old Ramses De Teillee (5-1), who roared back to form courtesy of a nine and a half-length success in the Racing TV Veterans' Handicap Chase over three miles.
It’s been two years and a day since the likeable grey last entered the winners’ enclosure at Cheltenham’s November Meeting though you could call this result some way out, with David Pipe’s charge long having put the race to bed before clearing the last fence.
It was a performance which delighted his long-time partner Scudamore, who was thrilled to see his charge get his nose back in front. He said: “I’m not sure I enjoyed it as much as he did! He’s a fantastic horse and he’s been showing the same spark at home, so it was just whether he could do it on the track.
“He was going to go to Sandown the other week and there was too much rain and then he was going to go to Cheltenham last week and there wasn’t enough, so it’s third time lucky that we’ve got the right amount. As soon as he saw the fences down the far side there, that was where he was really licking his lips.
“We’ve had some great times with him and for a horse to have gone to the places where he’s gone and still have the same enthusiasm is fantastic and it just shows what a great initiative this veterans’ series is.”
Elsewhere on the card, Ginny’s Destiny (18-1) caused a minor surprise when storming to an eight and a half-length success for the Tom Lacey team in the Derek Bridge Memorial Novices' Hurdle.
The six year old struggled when sent off as favourite for his hurdling debut at Aintree last month, but Lacey was much more encouraged with what he saw here and suggested that he may now aim his charge at the Grade Two Leamington Novices’ Hurdle back at Warwick in January.
He said: “I’m over the moon, Aintree was a disaster from the get-go really and I don’t think he acted around the track at all. Today he’s proved he’s a smart individual and there’s plenty to look forward with for him and we hope that he could be a nice type for the Ballymore here after Christmas.
“He’s by Yeats so he’s got a character and he was probably just a bit bullish in early season, Stan (Sheppard) was probably right in that Aintree just took some of that freshness out of him. He came here today on preferred ground and did it really well, there were some really nice horses in behind him today. Hopefully, we’ve got a really nice horse to go to war with.”