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Jonbon has top-level opportunity at Aintree

Hopes are high Jonbon can return to winning ways in the Betway Top Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree on Friday.

Having gained plenty of column inches before he had even taken to the track as brother to the brilliant Douvan, he won on his point-to-point debut and JP McManus was happy to go to £570,000 at the Goffs sales in November 2020.

To his credit, the Nicky Henderson-trained six-year-old has lived up to his tall reputation to date, with his only defeat coming at the hands of stablemate Constitution Hill who put up a jaw-dropping display in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle last month.

Big-race jockey Aidan Coleman said: “He ran really well at Cheltenham, we were delighted with that. Constitution Hill looks pretty special, doesn’t he? So we were delighted. He was unbeaten and he beat the rest in the race fair and square.

“He had a very good season leading up to that, we’re hoping for a good run in another competitive race on Friday.

“It looks a very difficult contest in its own right, but Jonbon has had a great season and we’re hoping he can put up another good show again.

“It’s what he’s done all year.”

Assessing his chance, Henderson told Unibet: “He would get two and a half comfortably in our opinion, but he has the speed for two miles. He beat the rest of the field fair and square in the Supreme. You’d hope with no Constitution Hill, Jonbon would be the one to beat. The better the ground, the better he will be.”

Henderson also runs County Hurdle runner-up First Street, and added: “First Street ran a great race at Cheltenham to finish second in the County Hurdle, considering the winner (State Man) looked like a graded horse wrapped up in handicap clothes. We had no chance of beating that, but he still ran very well.”

Willie Mullins takes on Jonbon with El Fabiolo
Willie Mullins takes on Jonbon with El Fabiolo (David Davies/PA)

State Man’s trainer Willie Mullins is represented by El Fabiolo, who has only had one run for the Closutton handler.

He was an easy winner at Tramore and was then due to run at the Dublin Racing Festival.

“He was very impressive in Tramore and then unfortunately got a knock on his way to the races for the Dublin Racing Festival and missed a bit of time,” said Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father.

“We decided Cheltenham was probably going to come a bit too soon so he takes his chance here.

“It’s a big step up all right, but he ran over hurdles in Auteuil and I think he’ll take it in his stride.”

Two prolific winners are available at big prices, Donald McCain’s A Different Kind and Chris Gordon’s Aucunrisque.

There are three further Irish-trained runners in Gordon Elliott’s Vina Ardanza, Peter Fahey’s Imperial Cup winner Suprise Package and Jonathan Fogarty’s Salamanca Bay.

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