Jonbon stakes claim as best two-mile chaser with dominant Celebration Chase win

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There are few finer sights in jump racing than Jonbon in full flow over the Sandown fences and the apple of owner JP McManus’s eye silenced any remaining critics with a dominant success in the Grade 1 bet365 Celebration Chase.

In his belated third clash with El Fabiolo, Jonbon was forcefully ridden by Nico de Boinville and, although he took the odd chance over his fences, he never looked likely to be headed as he took his record to 14 wins and three seconds under rules.

Scratched from a Champion Chase showdown with El Fabiolo at Cheltenham in March after the wheels fell off the Seven Barrows bandwagon, Jonbon proved his good health when winning over two and half miles at Aintree this month and was razor-sharp on his return to the minimum trip as he registered back-to-back wins in the Celebration.

“This horse is very important to everybody and a flagship really,” said trainer Nicky Henderson. “JP and I talk a lot but the amazing thing is every conversation starts, ‘How’s Jonbon?’. Another horse is lucky to get a mention in the conversation. I think this horse means a lot to him and he means a lot to me.

“You could have nearly fined him for speeding today but you had to go and do that. We knew a week ago that we were going to have to go out and drum this race and make it a proper test. We had to test stamina, because we know Jonbon stays two and a half miles, and test everybody’s jumping, including his. He’s not flawless as you saw in the Clarence House but Nico and Jonbon are two brave people.

“It’s just a shame he couldn’t have been at Cheltenham but I think he’s regained his place in the pecking order of two-mile chasers.”

Quick enough for two miles, already a winner at two and a half and with the potential to stay three, Jonbon has not made it easy for connections heading into next season and Henderson thought it would take most of the summer to formulate a plan.

“I was thinking the Ascot chase [1965 Chase, over 2m5f] might be the place to start him next season,” said Henderson. “Nico is now talking about three miles whereas at Aintree he was saying go back to two miles. We can’t ask the horse, so we’ve only got to ask ourselves where his optimum is.

“We’ve got all summer but when he’s dusting it up like that and making it a proper test of jumping and galloping he’s pretty damn good.”

While El Fabiolo’s second was enough to secure Willie Mullins his first trainers’ title in Britain, his jumping unravelled under the test set by the winner.

“I thought he was destined for fourth coming to the second-last so to get back up to be second was a good run but jumping was our issue and he must improve,” said Mullins.

Rider Paul Townend added: “He battled well to get back up for second but probably just missed too many fences to get into a good flow.”

Edwardstone put a fall at the second-last in the Champion Chase behind him with a close third under Tom Cannon, who said: “It was a very solid run. He settled nicely and there were no excuses.”

There was a sad postscript to the race with Elixir De Nutz, a Grade 1 winner over fences and hurdles, suffering what proved a fatal injury when falling at the second-last fence.