What has already been a special couple of days in Liverpool for owner JP McManus has the potential to be even greater as he can look forward to five runners in the Randox Grand National.

His famous green and gold silks have been carried to victory four times in the first two days, and he celebrated an incredible Grade One treble on Friday.

Having watched Inothewayurthinkin and Iroko provide him with a one-two in the Mildmay Novices’ Chase, Mystical Power, a son of Galileo and the Champion Hurdle winner Annie Power went one better than at Cheltenham in the Top Novices’ Hurdle.

However, he was especially pleased to see Jonbon, denied a run at the Cheltenham Festival due to the cloud hanging over Nicky Henderson’s yard, land the Melling Chase.

“Days like these are very special so you’ve got to celebrate and enjoy them,” said McManus.

“Jonbon winning meant a lot because it has been a trying time for Nicky over the past two months so to see him up there, you could see it was special to him.”

McManus has been lucky enough to win the National twice already, firstly when providing Sir Anthony McCoy with his only success, at the 15th attempt, on Don’t Push It, and then he watched Rachael Blackmore create history on Minella Times in 2021.

“I don’t think there is any race like the Grand National. From being a kid I always had a bet in the National, no matter how old you are it is the one race everybody watched,” said McManus.

“If you go to the local hurling club or wherever, they’d all know who won the Grand National.

“Look at AP (McCoy), it took him a long time to win it but I know how much it meant to him when he did, I’m just surprised these days he doesn’t say he should have won it twice!”

Despite having won all there is to win in racing, the former bookmaker still admits to getting excited about the famous race.

“I’ve been coming to Aintree since 1976, Rag Trade I think, I may have missed one in between and the covid one,” he said.

“It’s an unbelievable race, the National, you think about it 12 months before and try to think if you’ve one good enough to run in it.

“We run five tomorrow but hopefully we’ve one real one, I hope.

“I’ve had a little on Limerick Lace at 25-1 each-way because I thought that was a big price, but if my life depended on it I think I Am Maximus is the one. Willie (Mullins) said we’re going to try to win the Grand National and then the Gold Cup!”

Jonbon took the step up in trip in his side as he roared back to his best with a brave success in 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 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.

Jonbon steps up to two and a half miles for the first time in Friday’s ultra-competitive My Pension Expert Melling Chase at Aintree.

Nicky Henderson’s charge has won multiple Grade Ones over the minimum trip but connections have been minded to try him over further for some time.

Having missed the Cheltenham Festival due to concerns over the form of his string, Henderson will be hoping for a better display than the one which saw him beaten at 1-4 in the rearranged Clarence House Chase when he made several jumping errors.

Taking him on are this year’s Ryanair winner Protekorat and the 2022 winner of that race Envoi Allen.

Protekorat had spent a large part of the previous two seasons running over three miles but excelled dropped in trip last month, while Envoi Allen put up a game defence of his title in second.

Paul Nicholls won the race last year with Pic D’Orhy and the nine-year-old is back again searching for a valuable win for his handler in the race to be champion trainer.

Gordon Elliott’s Conflated also runs in this in preference to the Grand National, with Easy Game and Minella Drama completing the field.

Two smart mares, Golden Ace and Dysart Enos, will meet again in the TrustATrader Top Novices’ Hurdle.

Fergal O’Brien’s Dysart Enos came out on top when they met in a Grade Two bumper at this meeting 12 months ago but she was denied her chance to go for glory at Cheltenham due to a minor setback.

In her absence Jeremy Scott’s Golden Ace won the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle, beating some well-touted Irish contenders.

Standing in their way is Willie Mullins’ Supreme runner-up Mystical Power, the third Firefox and Ben Pauling’s promising Personal Ambition in a field of eight.

There are six in the Huyton Asphalt Franny Blennerhassett Memorial Mildmay Novices’ Chase and none can be confidently ruled out.

Cheltenham winner Inothewayurthinkin and Kim Bailey’s Chianti Classico will have plenty of supporters.

Henry de Bromhead sends over Heart Wood, Broadway Boy gets the chance to atone for missing Cheltenham, with Giovinco and Iroko not out of it either.

The Mullins-trained Dancing City and Readin Tommy Wrong, Shanagh Bob, Croke Park and The Jukebox Man, agonisingly reeled in by Stellar Story in the Albert Bartlett, are among nine in the Cavani Sartorial Menswear Sefton Novices’ Hurdle.

Nicky Henderson has reacted to his overall poor results on the opening day of this year’s Cheltenham Festival by withdrawing several runners on day two, including Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase hope Jonbon.

Henderson went into this year’s Festival under a cloud following the withdrawal of Champion Hurdle title holder Constitution Hill and a disappointing run of form from his stable as a whole.

Luccia provided the Seven Barrows handler with a boost when finishing third behind State Man in the Champion Hurdle, but his other five runners on Tuesday were all pulled up.

Henderson posted on X: “I’m afraid we have had to make some very tough decisions following the very disappointing performances of all bar one of our horses yesterday.

“It was there for all to see that there is obviously something affecting nearly all our horses and consequently we have reluctantly decided that Jonbon, First Street and Kingston Pride will not run today.

“It is impossible to identify any reason for all the disappointments and none of these horses have given us any cause for concern and all yesterday’s runners were scoped clean post race and I am glad to say all are sound this morning.

“There will unfortunately be further non-runners on Thursday and Friday.

“I hope everybody will appreciate that we have to do this in everybody’s interests, particularly the horses. It is very, very disappointing for everybody.”

Among Henderson’s high-profile entries for the rest of the week are JCB Triumph Hurdle favourite Sir Gino and leading Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup contender Shishkin.

Nicky Henderson is optimistic Jonbon can give familiar foe El Fabiolo a run for his money when they clash for a third time in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham on Wednesday.

Jonbon was a narrow victor when the top-class pair first clashed in a Grade One novice hurdle at Aintree in April 2022, but El Fabiolo took his revenge 12 months ago when running out a facile winner of the Arkle Trophy.

With Jonbon making a fine start to his season with wins in the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham and the Tingle Creek at Sandown, and El Fabiolo successful on his reappearance in the Hilly Way at Cork, their rivalry was scheduled to resume in January’s Clarence House Chase, but the abandonment of racing at Ascot meant they instead went their separate ways.

While El Fabiolo stretched his unbeaten record over fences to six at the Dublin Racing Festival, Jonbon suffered a shock reverse in a rescheduled Clarence House on Cheltenham Trials day, with Henderson of the opinion that the extra week proved detrimental to his charge.

“I was really looking forward to Ascot and the clash with El Fabiolo, we were in absolute tip-top shape and I was very confident for that, we were very prepared for it,” he said.

“Jonbon is the one horse, when you’ve wound up the clock, a week was a long time for him, I couldn’t wind him up anymore and it gave us a headache of a week.

“They’ll go some gallop in the Champion Chase and I think that suits him. It looks as if Edwardstone has come into pacemaking duties and he looked very good at Newbury, but in some ways I don’t think that is a bad thing for us.”

El Fabiolo will look to provide Willie Mullins and Paul Townend with a third successive Champion Chase victory following the back-to-back triumphs of Energumene.

Townend said: “He’s made the step into open company well this year and goes here off the back of a good win at the Dublin Racing Festival. He’s another exciting one for the week.”

Edwardstone won the 2022 Arkle for Alan King, and while he was no match for Jonbon in either the Shloer or the Tingle Creek earlier in the season, he looked right back to his best under a positive ride in last month’s Game Spirit Chase at Newbury.

“He’s never really been away and his two runs behind Jonbon were very good. All right his run at Kempton over two and a half (miles) didn’t work, which was disappointing, but he has done very little wrong in his life,” said King.

“He’s in good order, but this is a totally different ball game to the Game Spirit.”

On whether Edwardstone could attempt to make all the running, the trainer added: “We’ll worry about tactics on the day, but there will be plenty of pace on and the Tizzard horse (Elixir De Nutz) will go forward. We’re certainly not going to drop him in, but we’ll see what happens.

“We’ve had a good preparation, but it’s up to him now. It’s nice to be part of it, but I’m not going there with any great expectations that we are going to win it.”

Elixir De Nutz was the horse that inflicted defeat upon Jonbon in the Clarence House, a first Grade One success for trainer Joe Tizzard and his nephew rider Freddie Gingell.

Tizzard feels he merits his place in the Champion Chase field, even if he is a big outsider.

He said: “He’s in top nick and Fred had a sit on him last Monday. He’s ready to go.

“He’s probably had his Gold Cup this season but if there are any flaws in the others, then he will be bang there.”

The Henry de Bromhead-trained Captain Guinness was best of the rest behind Energumene in last year’s renewal and is back for more after placing third behind El Fabiolo at Leopardstown.

“He was just a bit unfortunate at Christmas, but other than that he’s been brilliant,” said De Bromhead.

“It would be amazing if he could go one better than last year, fingers crossed.”

Nicky Henderson is unconcerned that Jonbon is heading for his big clash with El Fabiolo in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase on the back of a defeat.

For a horse who has won 12 of his 15 races under rules, the Seven Barrows handler also reads nothing into the fact that all three of his defeats have come at Cheltenham.

Stablemate Constitution Hill beat him in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle two years ago, while El Fabiolo saw him off in the Arkle last term. Most recently, in a performance littered with jumping errors, he was beaten in the rearranged Clarence House Chase as the 1-4 favourite.

He did begin this season with a comfortable win at Cheltenham, though, and that is why Henderson sees no reason to worry.

“He’s schooled this morning, AP (McCoy) was here to see him. He’s in good form, very good,” said Henderson.

“We’ve done nothing different (since the Clarence House). You just put it down as one mistake. You’ve got to. He schooled this morning and jumped more than he will in the Queen Mother.

“He won the Shloer, that proves he goes around Cheltenham, I’ve no worries on that front.”

With Alan King’s Edwardstone looking a reformed character having adopted front-running tactics in the Game Spirit Chase, Henderson feels the Queen Mother will be run to suit Jonbon.

He said: “They’ll go some gallop and I think that suits him. It looks as if Edwardstone has come into pace-making duties and he looked good at Newbury, but in some ways, I don’t think that is a bad thing for us. But I would have been happy to make the running.

“AP thought he was very good (Thursday morning) and would love to ride him himself – of all the horses, I know he’d love to ride him because he would suit him. AP has watched him school so many times.

“There’s one fence in our row of five he always meets on the wrong stride but he is so quick sorting his feet out. I think AP would love the challenge of him. While Constitution is straightforward, he is a bit the other way, he tests you, we call him fidgety.

“He did well really last time (to get back on terms), the thing that cost him was the last fence, not the mistake down the hill. If he’d met it on a better stride, it would have been game over, but he landed in a bit of a heap and the other horse just got away from him.”

A step up in trip had been discussed at the end of last season but he was not even entered in the Ryanair this year.

“We discussed it but never put him in the Ryanair. I would have no problem going over two and a half,” said Henderson.

“If you go back to last year, he was going to go over two and a half at Aintree and it was only because the two-mile novice chase was miles weaker that he ran in it, so we stayed at two and he winged round Aintree.

“A fortnight later, we took him to Sandown against his elders to find out and he winged round there, so we said he was a two-miler. I’d be surprised if one day he doesn’t go over further. We’ll find out between now and the end of the season, let’s see how it all goes.”

The rematch with El Fabiolo was all set for the original Clarence House at Ascot but when the race was moved to Cheltenham, Willie Mullins decided to keep his chaser at home.

“I was really looking forward to Ascot and the clash with El Fabiolo, we were in absolute tip-top shape and I was very confident for that, we were very prepared for it,” explained Henderson.

“He’s the one horse, when you’ve wound up the clock, a week was a long time for him, I couldn’t wind him up any more and it gave us a headache of a week.

“People might say what difference does a week make, but to something like him it does. With Constitution Hill, you could hold him for a month, but Jonbon is a bit different to anybody else.

“He might have had a harder race than we imagined from the betting, but until he made that mistake down the hill, everything had gone really nice.”

There was a huge shock in the My Pension Expert Clarence House Chase as Elixir De Nutz battled back to beat Jonbon, providing jockey Freddie Gingell and trainer Joe Tizzard with a first Grade One win.

The race was expected to be dominated by Jonbon in the absence of El Fabiolo but he rarely looked at ease.

He jumped slowly in the early stages as Elixir De Nutz (22-1) helped set the pace, getting into a great rhythm under Gingell.

Nicky Henderson’s Jonbon eventually got on an even keel and coming down the hill looked set to stamp his authority on the race.

However, the 1-4 favourite, ridden by James Bowen for the first time, ploughed through the fourth last, almost getting rid of Bowen and losing all momentum.

To his credit Jonbon looked to have done enough to triumph heading to the final fence but he again jumped poorly, allowing Elixir De Nutz and Gingell another chance and they took it with both hands, winning by a neck.

Gingell is the son of Tizzard’s late sister, Kim, and is already in demand with champion trainer Paul Nicholls.

Nicky Henderson’s Jonbon bids to continue a fine season in the My Pension Expert Clarence House Chase at Cheltenham on Saturday.

The eight-year-old has won both starts this term, taking the Shloer Chase by nine and a half lengths ahead of Edwardstone on his seasonal debut in November.

He then went to Sandown for the Tingle Creek, beating the same rival again to claim a two-and-three-quarter-length victory on heavy ground.

Nico de Boinville took the ride on both occasions to deputise for Jonbon’s usual rider Aidan Coleman, who is out injured, but De Boinville himself is now on the sidelines and James Bowen has been called up in his absence.

The contest was scheduled to take place at Ascot last weekend but when the meeting was called off due to frost, Cheltenham became the alternative host, scuppering an anticipated clash with Willie Mullins’ El Fabiolo.

Frank Berry, racing manager to owner JP McManus, said: “Nicky is very happy with him and we’re hoping for a good run and that all goes well. We’re looking forward to him.

“It will be nice ground there and it can only be a benefit to him to get some more Cheltenham experience.

“James is riding really well and riding plenty of winners and we’re looking forward to seeing him riding him.”

Henderson added via his Unibet blog: “It is a job well done by the Jockey Club and the British Horseracing Authority to get this race restaged and we are very happy to be taking part.

“Unfortunately, it’s not the clash we all wanted with El Fabiolo, but Jonbon is there and in great form at home.

“James has done plenty of schooling on him, primarily because we had him on standby for Ascot in case Nico wasn’t back in time, but as it was the race was off anyway. Hopefully this will set him up nicely for the Festival.”

Jonbon will face four rivals, amongst them Gary Moore’s Editeur Du Gite – fourth behind him in the Shloer and the winner of the Desert Orchid last time out.

Elixir De Nutz, third in the Desert Orchid and the winner of the Haldon Gold Cup, is also running for Joe Tizzard and Freddie Gingell.

Richard Hobson’s Fugitif, winner of the December Gold Cup at the track, is set to be ridden by Gavin Sheehan as Dan Skelton’s Nube Negra completes the field.

Nico de Boinville will miss Friday’s action at Sandown and the plum ride on Jonbon at Cheltenham on Saturday to give himself more time to fully recover from the broken collarbone he suffered in a fall at Doncaster last month.

The leading jockey returned from nearly a month on the sidelines at Lingfield last Sunday and has since taken up a total of 11 rides, including a winner at Warwick on Monday.

However, having suffered a narrow defeat aboard 11-8 favourite Ilfu Un Mome at Chepstow on Wednesday – his only ride on the card – De Boinville has made the difficult decision to withdraw from the upcoming action, meaning James Bowen will take over aboard Jonbon in Saturday’s Clarence House Chase.

“Nico was sore after yesterday, so he won’t be riding this weekend,” said De Boinville’s agent Sam Stronge.

“We’ll just take it day by day and see how it is next week. It’s unfortunate, we obviously tried to do our best as quickly as we could, and after riding for a couple of days he obviously wasn’t quite right.

“The sensible thing to do when you’ve got big rides like that (Jonbon) is to not let everybody down. It’s a very difficult decision, but we’ll take it day by day and hopefully he’ll be back next week.”

Connections of Jonbon are excited about the prospect of again locking horns with El Fabiolo, with the Clarence House Chase now just over a week away.

The Ascot Grade One was nominated as the next target by both camps after winning their pre-Christmas assignments and neither team is backing down from the challenge just yet, with the two major players of the two-mile chasing division poised to clash for a third time.

It was Nicky Henderson’s charge who gained the upper hand at Aintree in the duo’s novice hurdling days, but El Fabiolo excelled during a novice chasing campaign that saw Willie Mullins’ seven-year-old claim Grade One glory at the Dublin, Cheltenham and Punchestown Festivals.

With the scoreline locked at one each, many thought the rubber match would come in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, but now the scene seems set for a repeat of Energumene’s titanic clash with Shishkin in early 2022, with the Jonbon camp relishing a blockbuster showdown.

“The horse is in great form, Nicky is very happy with him and we’re all looking forward to the race,” said Frank Berry, racing manager to owner JP McManus.

“It should be a cracking race and we’re looking forward to it.”

All has gone swimmingly for Jonbon so far this term and having returned with a dazzling display in Cheltenham’s Shloer Chase, he showed he has the ability to grind out results when conditions are against him when producing a gritty performance to win the Tingle Creek last month.

Jonbon was ridden in both of those victories by Nico de Boinville, but with the Seven Barrows number one on the sidelines with a collarbone injury and former partner Aidan Coleman still recovering from the serious knee injury suffered last summer, the eight-year-old is likely to have a new man in the saddle for the Clarence House.

James Bowen has proved a more than able deputy aboard the Henderson string in De Boinville’s absence, but Berry says no jockey decision has been made yet for Jonbon with the trainer set to have crucial input.

He added: “I’m not sure at the moment (who will ride) and we’ll leave that up to Nicky.”

Jonbon was much the best and had little trouble in the winning the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham.

In a field of four for the Grade Two highlight on the final day of the November Meeting, Nicky Henderson’s gelding was joined by Edwardstone, Nube Negra and Editeur Du Gite – all good horses in their own right.

Jonbon was the 4-9 favourite under Nico de Boinville as regular rider Aidan Coleman has not yet recovered from injury.

The duo hit their stride early and disputed the lead with Editeur Du Gite, but it was not long before Jonbon pushed to the fore and from there he was never going to be caught and strode to a straightforward success from Edwardstone, who has the best part of 10 lengths in arrears.

“The back-end of the last season, after the Arkle, we were dying to go two and a half (miles),” said Henderson.

“The two-mile novice at Aintree was much the easier race and then 13 days later he went to Sandown (Celebration Chase) and that was to find out if he was a two-miler against the second, third and fourth in the Champion Chase.

“He didn’t wait for them. He does look like a two-miler there, he’s got to stay there for now because of the Tingle Creek (at Sandown on December 9). Two and a half looks like it’s getting further away, I’m sure he’d stay but why go there if you don’t have to?

“I thought he was great, we’ll see what everyone else wants to give him!”

He added: “His only two defeats have come here, one was Constitution Hill (Supreme Novices’ Hurdle) and one was El Fabiolo (Arkle Trophy). If we can convince Willie (Mullins, trainer of El Fabiolo) to stay in Ireland we can have a rematch (in March). I think he’s grown up a lot.”

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