You are currently viewing HORSE POWER: Rivals El Fabiolo and Jonbon must be allowed to clash at Ascot…. PLUS Liverpool players have the winning habit at the racetrack

HORSE POWER: Rivals El Fabiolo and Jonbon must be allowed to clash at Ascot…. PLUS Liverpool players have the winning habit at the racetrack

  • Post category:UK Racing News
  • Reading time:10 mins read


Rivalries: they make sport such a compelling spectacle. It’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Pick a side, nail your colours to the mast and, win or lose, emotionally invest yourself as it all pans out.

Nobody watches the Wimbledon final and says they aren’t bothered who wins; you don’t spend the last day of a major ambivalent about which golfer will come out on top. You tune in, or attend, to see greatness being tested to the limit — and it’s even better when old foes collide.

Rivalries endure. It’s why we still use Seb Coe and Steve Ovett as reference points, 43 years on from their showdown in the Moscow Olympics, for what sport should epitomise: pushing yourself to the limit, fighting back and never shirking a challenge.

Could you imagine if Coe had decided enough was enough after losing the 800metres? Or Rafa Nadal didn’t want to play on grass again after being beaten by Roger Federer in his first two appearances in Wimbledon’s men’s final?

That was never an option, of course. To be the best, you must beat the best and this brings us to the two fastest horses over fences, El Fabiolo and Jonbon, who could have an enduring rivalry and show there is nothing more thrilling than seeing two-mile chasers in their pomp.

Jonbon, ridden by jockey Nico de Boinville, won the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown 

An hour before Jonbon won the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown on Saturday, connections of El Fabiolo were in the parade ring at Aintree musing how this campaign might pan out for their flying machine, who was last season’s Champion Novice.

Assuming all went well on his reappearance at Cork the following day, Anthony Bromley — racing manager to owners Isaac Souede and Simon Munir — suggested another outing at Christmas would come too soon for El Fabiolo and Ascot in January might be the next port of call.

Once El Fabiolo won the Hilly Way Chase, his trainer Willie Mullins confirmed Ascot was firmly in his thoughts. It was only a couple of sentences, but still enough to spark excitement.

The first and second favourites for the Queen Mother Champion Chase going head-to-head seven weeks before the Cheltenham Festival? Everybody should be on board with this idea. It would be an incredible spectacle on a wonderful course, totally different to the challenge they will encounter in March.

Enthusiasm, though, cannot be unadulterated as doubts persist whether both camps will firmly commit to the rumble. JP McManus, Jonbon’s owner, had said after the Tingle Creek success, when asked about El Fabiolo, that ‘we will avoid him for as long as we can!’ One question: why? Jonbon and El Fabiolo are supremely gifted but they have no commercial value. Both are geldings, they will never be required for the breeding industry and, unlike Flat racers, defeat doesn’t damage their c.v. or their worth.

They are competing in a division where the options for them are limited. Between now and the Queen Mother Champion Chase, there are only a handful of prizes this swaggering pair could pursue but the most attractive is the Grade One Clarence House at Ascot on January 20.

So far in their short careers, they have faced each other twice. Jonbon came out on top in April 2022 at Aintree, by a neck, when they were novice hurdlers with El Fabiolo turning the form around in the Arkle Chase at Cheltenham in March.

El Fabiolo staked his Queen Mother Champion Chase claims with Cork triumph on Sunday

El Fabiolo staked his Queen Mother Champion Chase claims with Cork triumph on Sunday

El Fabiolo has a huge fan club and, already in Ireland, there is talk he will carry the burden of ‘banker bet’ at the Festival; certainly, the ease with which he won at Cork five days ago, having been too exuberant early on, showed he is on the upgrade.

But so, too, is Jonbon. His two performances so far this winter, in the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham in November and the Tingle Creek, have proven he has much more to give and when you see a horse in this form, you want to see how far it can go.

It would be a travesty if one or the other passes up the chance to go to Ascot in five weeks. If they were to do that, it would be further proof that the Festival is becoming so huge that it is almost to the detriment of everything else through the winter.

No. The third round of El Fabiolo versus Jonbon at Ascot must happen. Round four can take place, as planned, in March before round five at Punchestown or Sandown in April. This is top level sport. Champions don’t hide.

Bloom makes an impact

Tony Bloom’s running of Brighton has earned rave reviews for the way he has not been afraid to challenge convention or raise standards.

It has led to great success and it is clear he is taking that approach into racing. Bloom has enjoyed some big days so far, such as with dual Champion Chaser Energumene, but you can expect to see him making more of an impact on the Flat in the coming years.

Bloom is co-owner of Lake Forest, who won the Gimcrack Stakes at York in August. A privilege for winning connections of that race is to give the keynote speech at the Gimcrack Dinner and on Tuesday night he used his platform to speak with great sense.

Brighton owner Tony Bloom has called for a break before the Flat and jump seasons

Brighton owner Tony Bloom has called for a break before the Flat and jump seasons

He knows — like we all know — there is far too much racing presently. This column highlighted two weeks ago the nonsense of Newcastle staging six meetings in nine days, many in front of a handful of spectators. Bloom wants to see change.

‘It’s remarkable how the start of a new season brings fresh enthusiasm and excitement to everyone involved with a football club,’ said Bloom. ‘Nobody more so than the fans. The short break between seasons gives everyone a chance to rethink, reassess and recharge.

‘We all emerge the better for it. However, I fear racing’s Flat and jump seasons have come to be thought of as a continuous 12-month cycle. Without heavy lifting, it should be possible to install a 10-14 day break prior to the start of each season.

‘Racing must have confidence it is a great sport — and not sell itself short by saturating every free moment with more racing.’

Liverpool players including Trent Alexander-Arnold have entered racehorse ownership

Liverpool players including Trent Alexander-Arnold have entered racehorse ownership

The winning habit

Liverpool players are enjoying a season full of promise and success has not been limited to the football pitch.

Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson, along with former team-mates James Milner, Jordan Henderson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Adam Lallana, entered racehorse ownership 18 months ago and their first purchase, Mister McCann, was a money-spinner for trainer Hugo Palmer.

Their second horse also has the winning habit: The Bitter Moose was successful on the All-Weather over seven furlongs at Lingfield last week and the two-year-old might not have reached the ceiling of its potential.



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