Marsh Chase (Grade 1)
& Betway Top Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1)
CHAMPION owner J.P. McManus showed his power on Friday, first by shuffling the deck with his Grand National runners and later by greeting two Grade 1 winners in the winner’s enclosure.
The succesful pair, Jonbon and Fakir D’Oudairies, were the shortest priced favourites on the day.
Fakir D’Oudairies (Joseph O’Brien/Mark Walsh) went off at 10/11 for the Marsh Chase and duly followed up last year’s success in the race with the minimum of fuss.
With the field taken along at a strong pace by Editeur Du Gite, this was always going to be a test of stamina at the trip, and with Allmankind the first horse beaten, and Saint Calvados too free to do himself justice, Fakir D’Oudairies was left with a bunch of two-milers to beat.
The favourite’s superior weaponry carried the day by five and a half lengths over Hitman (Paul Nicholls/Lorcan Williams), who travelled very strongly into contention, and emerged with credit in second.
Sceau Royal was a respectable third, a further three lengths away, while Newbury winner Paint The Dream emerged with credit in fourth having been handy all the way.
Jonbon (Nicky Henderson/Aidan Coleman) looked to hold outstanding claims in the Top Novices’ Hurdle, having chased home Constitution Hill at Cheltenham, but the evens favourite had to survive a strong challenge from the unexposed El Fabiolo (Willie Mullins/Paul Townend).
In what became an epic battle, the pair were locked in battle from between the last two, and pulled many lengths clear.
A better jump by Jonbon at the final hurdle gave him a narrow advantage, and although the runner-up strained every sinew to narrow the gap, the verdict was a neck in favour of Jonbon at the line, with 19 lengths back to Vina Ardanza (Gordon Elliott/Davy Russell) in third.
Fears about Jonbon’s temperament have proved unfounded, and attempts by rivals to get him to over-race, notably in the Kennel Gate at Ascot, have come to nothing.
He was ridden too aggressively in the Supreme, but still emerged with huge credit, and if anyone doubted his courage going into this contest, they had such doubts swept away by a performance full of class and fighting spirit.
El Fabiolo ran a huge race, and was hampered when Salamanca Bay blundered and unseated Mikey Fogarty three out, but for which he might have thrown down an even stronger challenge, and the slight mistake he made at the last also cost him momentum.
He is a big, raw recruit, who looks the type to take high order as a novice chaser next term, although presumably he has a date at Punchestown before such decisions need to be made.