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Soccer

Jonbon back in business in Melling Chase

Jonbon was back to his best when adding another Grade 1 to his collection in the shape of the My Pension Expert Melling Chase at Aintree.

Nicky Henderson’s eight-year-old has been campaigned solely at two miles so far over fences and won both the Shloer Chase and Tingle Creek in the early stages of this campaign.

However, a narrow reverse in the rearranged Clarence House was followed by missing the Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival as Henderson effectively shut down his operation on account of the poor stable form.

Trying two and a half miles for the first time, Jonbon (11-10 favourite) travelled supremely in the hands of Nico de Boinville, with Jack Kennedy keen to make this a stiff stamina test sending Conflated to the lead where he was closely shadowed by Pic D’Orhy and Minella Drama.

Jonbon and Protektorat were always hot on that trio’s tail and as Kennedy continued to pour on the coal aboard Conflated down towards two out, Jonbon loomed menacingly with Protektorat staying on strongly.

Nico de Boinville edged the JP McManus-owned Jonbon to a narrow advantage jumping the last and the Seven Barrows star pulled out all the stops as he kept on right to the line to hold off the game Conflated, with Protektorat back in third after a thrilling conclusion to the Grade One event.

Henderson said: “I don’t know why, but everybody loves him, I know JP does as well.

“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!

“I always wondered whether we should have been thinking about the Ryanair this year and 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!”

On the stable’s return to form, he added: “This horse was one of the special ones, obviously. I think we’re getting through it quite nicely now, that was great with Sir Gino yesterday and they’re all running well.

“This horse is a bit special, he’s been at the top of his game for a few years now and has never missed a beat. We can enjoy this one.

“We’ll never know whether missing Cheltenham has helped us with the horses coming here, you could say it’s possibly in our favour. The other horses have been to Prestbury Park and we were sadly stuck in our box at home with all of them.”

Finishing second in a Grade One for the second time on the day, Elliott said: “I’m delighted with the run, but gutted he didn’t win. The horse gave it everything but we’ve no excuses, he was beaten by a better horse on the day. It’s always disappointing when you are second but when they do nothing wrong you have to be happy.

“I think he’s probably run a career-best to be honest, he’s a great horse. The winner wasn’t at Cheltenham so was a fresh horse and I’m delighted for Nicky because he’s a great man.”

Dan Skelton said of third home Protektorat: “Harry (Skelton) will get off and say his jumping could have been a bit slicker, but around this track I wouldn’t think that is far off a career-best. They went very hard the whole way.

“I know we beat Conflated at Cheltenham, but the complexion of that race was as good as I’ve seen to be honest. I’m very proud of him and proud of how he has kept himself together for a whole season.

“This has shown the Ryaniar wasn’t just his day and I’m looking forward to next year more than I was this year.”

 

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