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Jonbon jumps to Melling victory

3 minute read

Nicky Henderson enjoyed further Grade 1 success at the Aintree Grand National meeting when Jonbon came home strongest of all in the Melling Chase.

JONBON winning the Melling Chase at Aintree in Liverpool, England.
JONBON winning the Melling Chase at Aintree in Liverpool, England. Picture: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

The Nicky Henderson-trained eight-year-old suffered a shock defeat at odds of 1/4 when beaten in the rearranged Clarence House Chase at Cheltenham in January and with the Seven Barrows yard cast under a dark cloud at last month's festival, JP McManus' charge was forced to miss his intended clash with El Fabiolo in the Champion Chase.

Despite stepping up into the unknown territory of two-and-a-half miles and being beaten last-time-out, Jonbon was sent off the well-backed 11/10 favourite in his bid to regain the winning thread.

Jack Kennedy and Conflated ensured there was no hiding place over the two-and-a-half mile contest but Nico De Boinville always looked to be travelling well within his comfort zone off the pace. Kennedy kicked for home on the front-running Conflated over the second last and although it looked for a second as if the Ryanair third had potentially slipped the field, both Jonbon and Protektorat were closing with every stride.

Jonbon got the front approaching the final fence and although he produced a by far from fluent leap, Nicky Henderson's now six-time Grade 1 winner had enough up his sleeve to repel the late challenge from the rallying Conflated, who would stay on best of the rest to fill the runner-up spot ahead of his Ryanair conqueror Protektorat.

"I don't know why, but everybody loves him, I know JP does as well," said Henderson.

"He dug very deep today, didn't he? And he had to. His jumping was very slick, and it was a great ride – you saw him at his best today.

"All the guys at home do a great job as if you change the routine, you could upset this fella very, very easily. I think we've got the hang of him now; we're learning!"

A campaign over two and a half miles could beckon for Jonbon next season and Paddy Power reacted quickly by cutting the hardened eight-year-old to 4/1 (from 8/1) for next year's Ryanair Chase.

"I always wondered whether we should have been thinking about the Ryanair this year." said the Seven Barrows-based handler.

"When we stepped Shishkin up to two and a half, we soon realised he actually wanted three. I'm not saying that about Jonbon at the moment as Nico thought that trip was perfect for him around here.

"I think the two and a half is probably ideal, although I'm trying to get Nico to say he'll stay three. But we can think about those things during the summer."

"He is a flagship horse. He's been there a long time now; you can go back to when he was battling El Fabiolo here in a novice hurdle here two years ago – he's been at the top for a fair old while.

"He's just been a star all the way through, and we love him, I hope he loves us!"

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