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Cheltenham Festival: Jonbon

Jonbon has always been the horse with a tall reputation and perhaps the detractors are too keen to knock the Nicky Henderson inmate, given what has been a nigh-on flawless career so far.

As the countdown for the 2023 Cheltenham Festival intensifies, we are taking a look at some of the horses expected to play major roles in the Cotswolds. 

Jonbon has only been beaten by a single horse in a career already spanning eight starts and he will bid for a first Cheltenham Festival win in the Arkle on day one of the meeting.

WhatArkle Chase 
WhereCheltenham Festival, Cheltenham Racecourse, Gloucestershire
When2.10, Tuesday 14th March, 2023
How to watchITV Racing, Racing TV & bet365 Sports Live Streaming
OddsJonbon 6/5, Appreciate It 7/2, Dysart Dynamo 4/1, El Fabiolo 11/2, Saint Roi 16/1, Banbridge 16/1, Mighty Potter 20/1

Arriving with a tall reputation 

As a brother to the very smart Cheltenham Festival winner Douvan, this son of Walk In The Park was always going to be well-touted.

He won his point-to-point at the first time of asking in November 2020 and was then purchased by top owner JP McManus for the princely sum of £540,000. 

With that breeding and that price tag, the young Jonbon was already setting tongues wagging long before he set foot on a racecourse. 

He was duly sent to Nicky Henderson's Seven Barrows yard and there were plenty of eyes on him when he debuted in a Newbury bumper in March 2021, an assignment he passed with flying colours.

Hurdles career watched intently 

There was still more interest when Jonbon returned to Newbury come November for his eagerly-anticipated hurdles bow. 

Again he was odds-on and, again, he delivered in dismissing the useful Good Risk At All with real ease. 

Next up was Ascot in December for a Grade 2 where his four rivals conspired to make an almost farcically slow start, but it mattered not as Jonbon made his own running and quickened away from them like the good horse he was becoming. 

Again, the likes of Knappers Hill, Elle Est Belle and this season's Greatwood Hurdle winner I Like To Move It were powerless to land a blow. 

He added a Supreme Novices' Trial at Haydock in January on soft ground and went to Cheltenham for the Festival curtain-raiser with a leading hope. 

He would of course finish second there, absolutely no match for Constitution Hill on the day – but then no horse before or since has come close to match that particular Seven Barrows stablemate. 

He ended the term by showing his tenacious side in out-battling the Willie Mullins-trained El Fabiolo at Aintree for his Grade 1 win, the pair having a personal battle up the home straight. 

By now, he'd faced 51 rivals under rules and only Constitution Hill – the freakishly good Constitution Hill – took his measure. No mean effort.

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More of the same over fences 

Jonbon has carried on very much in the same vein in his two novice chase wins this season. He beat the promising Monmiral by seven-lengths at Warwick on debut, jumping like a pro, in November and followed up soon after with a Grade 1 Henry VIII Novices' Chase score at Sandown. 

Again, he was ultra-professional in his work and pulled away from subsequent Grade 2 winner Boothill with consummate ease. 

He put a good time on the clock that day, and his closing sectionals were impressive despite the fact Aidan Coleman didn't really ask him for maximum effort. 

From there, Henderson planted his flag and said it would be straight onwards to Cheltenham on 14th March for the Arkle.

Strong credentials but the Irish are lurking 

Jonbon hasn't put a foot wrong in his career, truth be told, and at 6/5 he's a worthy Arkle favourite. 

Much more will be known however once the leading Irish challengers have played their hands in the key trials across at Leopardstown. 

Willie Mullins has 7/2 Appreciate It, 4/1 Dysart Dynamo and 11/2 El Fabiolo all ready to emerge as possible dangers following their Irish Arkle showdown and that's really the big danger to Jonbon – the great unknown. 

That's not really something he can control at this stage. Jonbon will be there when the tapes go up in the Arkle – ready for his next challenge and, so far, he's come up with a lot of the answers to his questions. 

It will take a good Irish horse to prevent him being the two-mile chasing divisions' know it all this season.

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