Sky Bet Supreme Trial Rossington Main Novices' Hurdle (Grade 2) | 1m7½f | 4yo+ | ITV4/RTV
There has been a ridiculous amount of hyperbole surrounding Jonbon since the brother to Douvan went through the sales ring for £570,000 in November 2020 and three straight wins under rules for Nicky Henderson have only enhanced his reputation. But is he that good?
The potential is clearly there, the pedigree is clearly there, but the bare form isn't there yet.
Jonbon has yet to run a fast time. He was given a Topspeed figure of just 33 for his first victory over hurdles at Newbury in November and won an even slower-run event at Ascot last time, when his success in the Kennel Gate was good enough for a Topspeed of only 24.
Just because Jonbon hasn't run a fast time doesn't mean he can't run one and it's possible he will be even more effective in a strongly run race. But we have seen him only in relative sprints over hurdles and he was best placed to take advantage on both occasions.
Jonbon has a high cruising speed and that has taken him to the front for both victories over hurdles. That is the perfect position for when a sprint begins and nothing has managed to pass him.
Furthermore, his form is largely untested. None of those he beat at Ascot last time have run since and remarkably few of the beaten horses in his Newbury race have competed either.
Charlie's Glance, who was fourth at Newbury, was turned over at 4-7 on his next start, but the fifth from that race has won since. That gives us mixed messages from that first effort alone.
If you listen to the talk Jonbon is the jewel in the crown among an embarrassment of riches in the two-mile novice division at Henderson's Seven Barrows yard, but far better to believe the facts and on those there is no comparison to stablemate Constitution Hill.
Constitution Hill has Topspeed figures of 123 and 134 and the 123 came when he beat Might I by 14 lengths on his hurdles debut at Sandown last month. If you took Constitution Hill out, Might I would have won that race at Sandown by 17 lengths for a Topspeed of 111.
It's clear Might I has already proved he can compete in a strongly run race and he's better than Jonbon on time, but time isn't everything and he has 6lb to find here on Racing Post Ratings.
The pair should have it between them, with only Richmond Lake within hailing distance on RPRs.
Race analysis by Graeme Rodway
Jonbon out to strengthen Henderson hand
While Constitution Hill and Walking On Air emerged as high-profile novices on the Henderson roster this season, there has been no hiding place for Jonbon ever since the brother to Douvan won a point-to-point by 15 lengths and was then bought by JP McManus for £570,000 at the Goffs Yorton sale.
Having done the minimum required in winning a Newbury bumper last March, he disappointed nobody in two thoroughly professional starts over hurdles before Christmas.
He is penalised for the second of those wins in the Grade 2 Kennel Gate Novices' Hurdle at Ascot last month and faces plenty of unexposed opponents, as well as Might I, who chased home Constitution Hill on his latest start.
Henderson will be hoping to fine-tune Jonbon here before heading to that mouthwatering clash with his stablemate in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle on day one of the Cheltenham Festival.
"Haydock will be pretty soft, we know that," said Henderson. "He's in great form. The timing is good to get one more run into him and then I can just back off him a little before March."
What they say
Nick Alexander, trainer of Donny Boy
We could have looked to run in another novice with a penalty but this race can set his programme for the rest of the season. He's either competitive at Graded level or he's not. It's a lovely race for him in that it’s the right track and the right ground. He’s 20-1 for a reason but he's never been tested properly and he certainly will be here.
Michael Scudamore, trainer of Lebowski
He's won two novice hurdles in nice style and the form has worked out okay, so we'll find out where we are taking some of these on. Ffos Las and Ayr are similar tracks and he's certainly not short of speed, so conditions should be in his favour. He comes here fresh and in good form.
Harry Fry, trainer of Might I
His form looks quite solid in giving 6lb to Constitution Hill and I'm quite glad we're in receipt of 5lb from Jonbon this time. We'll find out where we are with him but he goes there in good form. We went to Sandown expecting to have a nice prep for the Tolworth, but the Tolworth winner was already lurking in there. We decided not to take Constitution Hill on again and focus on this race instead.
Nicky Richards, trainer of Nells Son
We just need to find out where we're at. It won't be very nice ground and he'll probably handle it better than some of the others. We were a little bit disappointed he got beaten last time when he probably just didn't stay. He'll win plenty of races and we'll find out a lot more here.
Dan Skelton, trainer of Pikar
He's done loads of jumping since his last run. This is a very good race to be running in and if he wins a good race, great. But if he's still a novice next season, that's not the end of the world, which is why we're going for these good races.
Brian Hughes, rider of Richmond Lake
He has surprised this season. He won well at Bangor first time out – the form of which has worked out – and then finished behind two decent horses at Aintree before cantering round in front at Sedgefield as a very short-priced favourite. The ground and track shouldn't be an issue for him. We're taking on Jonbon, who looks a special horse, but you can't be afraid of one horse.