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El Fabiolo

El Fabiolo is the heir-apparent to the Queen Mother Champion Chase crown set to be vacated by stablemate Energumene at Cheltenham in March.

The Willie Mullins-trained seven-year-old has yet to taste defeat over fences and has one solitary loss by a neck on his record since he joined his powerhouse handler from France.

His biggest rival in the two-mile chasing division is Jonbon, who also just happens to be the only horse to defeat El Fabiolo in the UK or Ireland thus far.

Their potential Queen Mother Champion Chase showdown on Wednesday 13th March is going to be one of the most talked-about duels of the Cheltenham Festival this year and can be viewed via the bet365 Sports Live Sports Streaming platform. 

Horse Racing

El Fabiolo primed to take over from Energumene

The Queen Mother Champion Chase was the final piece in Willie Mullins' Cheltenham Festival jigsaw. 

The Irish supremo, the most successful trainer of all-time at the Cotswolds extravaganza, had won everything else worth winning.

His long wait for Gold Cup glory ended in 2019 when Al Boum Photo scored and, three years later, Energumene completed his Championship-race CV by landing the Champion Chase. 

The Tony Bloom-owned star would add a second win in 2023 in imperious fashion and was very much the one to beat this season until an injury at home forced Mullins to rule him out for the season.

Luckily, last season's star two-mile novice El Fabiolo is primed and ready, seemingly, to fill the void - he's the 1/1 favourite for Champion Chase glory at Cheltenham on 13th March.

Smart form after arriving from France 

El Fabiolo had two runs in France, finishing third in a Listed Hurdle at Auteuil in September 2020 on the second of those, but some 472 days had passed when he debuted for Mullins in the colours of Simon Munir and Isaac Suede at Tramore on New Year's Day 2022.

He was well touted, going off 2/7 favourite, and scored as he pleased under Paul Townend.

From there he went straight to Aintree that spring where he gave Jonbon - second to Constitution Hill that same season in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle - an almighty scare in the Top Novices' Hurdle as the odds-on favourite scrambled home by a neck for Aidan Coleman and Nicky Henderson. 

El Fabiolo signed off a three-race novice campaign over timber with victory at Punchestown soon after, but was really to come to prominence when he went chasing. 

Stellar novice season yields trio of top prizes

There was little fanfare at Fairyhouse in December 2022 as Townend's partner justified cramped odds in a beginners' chase, defeating Colonel Mustard by nearly 20-lengths.

Indeed, he was 9/2 chance for the Irish Arkle at the Dublin Racing Festival on his next start, with Townend opting to partner Appreciate It instead as the owners' retained rider Daryl Jacob took over on El Fabiolo for the first and so far only time. 

They pulled ten lengths clear of Banbridge at Leopardstown, with Appreciate It back in third, for an impressive win.

The next stop was Cheltenham and there he was imperious in the Arkle, leaving old foe Jonbon toiling in second (well clear of everything else) as El Fabiolo and Townend delivered a real statement win in the Cotswolds. 

He cruised around Punchestown the following month for his third and final Grade 1 win as a novice and marked himself down as a two-mile chaser destined for the top.

Stepping out in open company

With Energumene confined to barracks at Closutton, El Fabiolo headed south to Cork in December 2023 to claim his Hilly Way Chase title, a race Mullins often targets with his leading two-mile chaser.

He defeated inferior opposition there and little was learned, in truth. 

His next assignment will reveal plenty more, as Mullins has aimed him towards the Clarence House Chase at Ascot on 20th January. 

He's the 8/15 favourite to pick up that Grade 1 prize and it presents a first opportunity for 13/8 Jonbon to try and show he has closed the gap from last year's Arkle.

There are real echoes of Energumene and Shishkin meeting in the same race in 2022, when the latter prevailed after a pulsating duel, only for Energumene to turn things around in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. 

Jonbon has added graded wins at Aintree, Sandown (twice) and Cheltenham since that Arkle defeat, most recently the Tingle Creek in December, and this burgeoning rivalry could become one of the stories of the jumps season.

On what we have seen to this point, it is going to require something special to lower the colours of El Fabiolo for the time being.

However, racing fans will be very eager to see what unfolds this spring as he meets rivals of real substance, led of course by his old friend from Seven Barrows. 

Any odds displayed were correct at the time of writing and are subject to fluctuation.

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