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  • Nicky Henderson Targeting Sandown Defence Or Punchestown For Jonbon

Nicky Henderson targeting Sandown defence or Punchestown for Jonbon

Jonbon could defend his Celebration Chase title or head to the Punchestown Festival before the season ends, after forming one half of a Grade One double for Nicky Henderson at Aintree’s Grand National

The JP McManus-owned eight-year-old was one of a number of big names from Seven Barrows to miss the Cheltenham Festival, with Henderson effectively shutting down operations as a poor run of form hit his Lambourn-based string.

However, he proved his class alongside hot juvenile prospect Sir Gino, as the Henderson team bounced back to form on Merseyside, their time in the doldrums proving short lived.

The Joe and Marie Donnelly-owned Sir Gino is finished for the season after claiming the Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle, but there could be further business for Jonbon to take care of, either at Sandown on the final day of the season or on a raiding mission to Ireland.

“Sir Gino, that will be him done, but there is every chance Jonbon could go again and we will have a look at the Celebration Chase or Punchestown,” said Henderson.

“If you wait for Punchestown, you get an extra four days, which might be a help, but I think both of mine, because they hadn’t been to Cheltenham, they probably had a bit of an advantage here.

“There is room to go again with Jonbon and we will see who is going where and what.

“He did it last year in his novice chase season – he went to Sandown for the Celebration and has done the double act before. He probably had an easier race in the novice chase last year than he did on Friday but it was just a very good race.”

It was Jonbon’s first attempt at two and a half miles when successful in the Melling Chase, but he will be dropping back to two miles if he is to be seen again this spring.

However, Henderson is envisaging a return to further after that possible assignment, with plenty to be discussed with owner McManus before the autumn.

“He would have to come back to two miles because there isn’t anything for him over further and then we will have to sit down and think,” he continued.

“I was saying before the race I was sure he would get the two and a half and wouldn’t be surprised if we were soon talking about three (miles).

“Nico (de Boinville) wasn’t that convinced about the three, but we will see and I haven’t discussed it with JP yet – he’s got plenty on his mind at present counting up all his Grade One winners.”

Jonbon is not the only Seven Barrows inmate in line for a trip to the Punchestown Festival, with Shishkin on course for a long-awaited clash with dual Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Galopin Des Champs in the Punchestown Gold Cup.

The 10-year-old could only finish fourth in defence of his Bowl title at Aintree, but Henderson feels the set-up of the Kildare track would suit his multiple Grade One winner much better than Liverpool.

“I would like Shishkin to go to Punchestown and I think he would be ready for it,” added Henderson.

“I think the track would suit him a little bit more than Aintree and he just didn’t look quite sharp enough round there.

“He couldn’t just get out of pockets and holes at the right moment. Tactically, it was a tough race and he just lacked that little bit of zip, so we might zip him up a little bit for Punchestown.”

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