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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 2023 National Hunt season has come to an end, we are taking a look at some of the horses expected to play major roles at the Cheltenham Festival and other big races next season.

The brilliant duo of Constitution Hill and El Fabiolo are the only horses to have beaten Jonbon, in a career already spanning 12 starts, and the JP McManus-owner seven-year-old is just a 5/1 shot to win the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival next season.

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.

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.

Beaten by a familiar foe

Jonbon arrived at the 2023 Cheltenham Festival after dominating the ante-post market for the Arkle Chase for the entire season.

However, in the 48 hours leading up to the Cleeve Hill showdown, El Fabiolo usurped Jonbon at the head of the betting and the Mullins runner duly turned the tables.

Jonbon had outbattled El Fabiolo at Aintree over Hurdles, but the Henderson-trained star lacked fluency in his jumping and traveling in the Arkle and Mullins' star turned the tables at the festival.

However, Jonbon got back on track with a victory in the EFT Systems Maghull Novices' Chase at Aintree in April and that was backed-up with an impressive win when tackling older rivals in the Grade 1 bet365 Celebration Chase at Sandown at the end of the month.

That has opened the door for a tilt at the Ryanair or Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival next season.

A step-up in trip has always looked like it would suit the Henderson-trained star and the two-and-a-half mile trip in the Ryanair looks the obvious fit for the seven-year-old.

Jonbon is a 5/1 shot for the Ryanair and a 7/1 chance for the Champion Chase at next season's Cheltenham Festival.

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