Racing fans were left surprised at Warwick on Saturday as Jonbon gave a troubling performance despite triumphing in the Kingmaker Novices’ Chase.
The countdown has already begun for this year’s Cheltenham Festival and we are just over four weeks away from hearing that famous old roar from the Gloucestershire racecourse. Fans, like horses and jockeys, are in the warm-up period to one of the spectacles of the racing calendar and are keeping a close eye on horses’ form in the build-up to the four-day meeting.
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One they will have been keeping tabs on is the Nicky Henderson-trained Jonbon, who has been expected by many to claim his first festival victory in the Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase. Jonbon made his festival bow just last year in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle when he was beaten by one of the biggest stars on the circuit right now in Constitution Hill.
Given the incredible form of his stablemate, Jonbon placing second in that race was a good achievement and he has been continually improving in preparation for his Cheltenham return. The seven-year-old has gone on to win in his four races since the 2022 festival, which included a success at Aintree when he beat El Fabiolo by a neck. He will be going head-to-head with the Willie Mullins-trained six-year-old for glory in the Arkle next month.
Jonbon wins the Virgin Bet Kingmaker Novices' Chase after a gritty performance from Calico 🥇
He's THREE from THREE over fences! 😎
#ITVRacing | @WarwickRaces
Jonbon has been largely convincing in his runs since his last outing at Cheltenham but there was something unsettling about his run at Warwick on Saturday. There was a lot of jumping towards the right and he struggled to get into gear early in the race while looking shaken up over some of the fences. Aided by jockey Aidan Coleman, Jonbon was able to overcome the issues hampering him for much of the race to finish strongly in the final stretch and win by over five lengths.
Of course it would be justifiable to be concerned with that run with Cheltenham so close, but there is still a month for Henderson to work on those problems to make Jonbon a much stronger force. Henderson even stated that he feels this latest exercise will benefit Jonbon moving forward. He told ITV Racing: “I'm going to look on the bright side. He's had such easy races, I think it took him by surprise when the other horse attacked him like that and he just shook his head. But he's done nothing wrong, he's not had a race since Aintree last year and it was his prep.”
The run at Warwick saw the J P McManus-owned horse drift to second favourite for the Arkle at 7/4 with Betfred, while El Fabiolo leads the market at 6/5. Henderson has four weeks ahead of him to get Jonbon in the strongest position to win the Arkle and you’d have to imagine that we will see a much stronger version of him when the festival rolls around.
*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject To Change