The scene is set for a classic Anglo-Irish Cheltenham showdown after Jonbon’s success at Sandown and El Fabiolo maintaining his unbeaten run over timber at Cork on Sunday.
The Nicky Henderson trained Jonbon has now won 12 of his 14 National Hunt starts with only the mighty Constitution Hill too good in the 2022 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and El Fabiolo in last season’s Arkle.
This season, the John McManus owned seven-year-old has won the Gr2 Shloer Chase and Saturday’s Gr1 Tingle Creek, beating multiple Group 1 winner Edwardstone on both occasions.
Henderson cited the Clarence House and the Grade 2 Game Spirit Chase at Newbury as possible targets for Jonbon after his uncomplicated success in the Tingle Creek.
El Fabiolo was far too good in the Gr2 Hilly Way Chase at Cork, travelling enthusiastically and jumping with precision in the hands of Paul Townend on his way to a straightforward four-and-three-quarter-length victory.
Trainer Willie Mullins noted post-race: “Paul was trying to not let his head go as he didn’t want him running too free. He relaxed at the second fence down the back straight and was able to do things properly. If he needed a race, Fil Dor was there to test him, and he did.”
Only beaten a neck by Jonbon in the 2022 Aintree Hurdle, the six-year-old is 7 from 8 with Mullins, including five unbeaten chases.
One of those chases was the Arkle at Cheltenham where he powered home five and a half lengths clear of Jonbon.
Mullins is keen to travel across the Irish Sea with El Fabiolo before Cheltenham as he did with Energumene last season, so the Group 1 Clarence House Chase at Ascot on January 20 could well be their next meeting.
“Jonbon did his job nicely, we got the job done today and we all have to get to Cheltenham,” said Mullins. “I don’t know where we’ll go now – we’ll look at Christmas, but he’ll probably go to Ascot.”
El Fabiolo remains a top-priced evens for the Champion Chase with Jonbon next on offer at 9-4.