Cheltenham Festival Focus: Blame the Jonbon fanboys for his outrageous Arkle price crash

Daryl Carter.
It's week six of Cheltenham Focus.

Daryl Carter and his Cheltenham Festival Focus column are back for week six! He tackles the Jonbon phenomenon that seems to have swept the nation and opts to hold fire on the ante-post betting this week...

  • Daryl rounds up the weeks action

  • Jonbon fanboy hysteria must stop!

  • Gary Moore's speedster should have got more plaudits

A smashing week's worth of action ended with the disappointment of Champion Hurdle favourite Constitution Hill who was withdrawn from Saturday's Ascot meeting due to the ground. He was one of 12 non-runners on the card as the ground turned to good by the time the opening race was due to be run.

I saw some ludicrous twitter posts on the matter - one even claimed that he couldn't be Champion Hurdle class if he can't run on good ground - seriously? Nicky Henderson is well within his rights to avoid risking a horse of this quality the first time out if he thinks the ground is unsuitable. End of.

The weekly round up

Last Sunday at Cheltenham, Nube Negra 1/10 had no more than a schooling round as he took advantage of Edwardstone's defection due to the drying ground. For me, he has tonnes to find at the top table of this division despite his rating of 165, and nothing here changed my mind. No doubt he will be placed well, but I wouldn't back him for the Champion Chase if his 33/1 had a zero at the end.

The same comment applies to I Live To Move It, who won a poor renewal of the Greatwood Hurdle. The runner-up Gin Coco looks as though he could be one for a big handicap down the line. Still, the winner would have to improve by around 30lbs just to beat Honeysuckle in the Champion Hurdle in March - it's not happening.

The Supreme Novice trial was in name only as Fennors Cross came home more than 20 lengths slower than I Like To Move It's in the Greatwood to win by three lengths. He is 40/1 for the Supreme Novice Hurdle if you like him, but I plead with you not to back him - horses rated 125 should not be winning Grade 2 Hurdle races at Cheltenham!

It shows the lack of depth again on this side of the water, and if you had read this column on week two, you would have known to steer clear of favourite Springwell Bay over two miles. He looks ready for a step up in distance, but it is more a Welsh National type in the making, and the form of that race looks dire.

There was little confidence in the market behind McFabulous at Exeter, but the unseat of Camprond at the first made his life easier. He ran out a ready winner on the day, but he had little to beat considering the Skelton's sent runner-up Unexpected Party there undercooked and for the experience. McFabulous looks set to step up to 3m next time, which will tell us more.

Why isn't anyone talking about Authorized Speed?!

We may have seen one of the best Novice Hurdlers this side of the water in Gary Moore's Authorized Speed at Lingfield over 2m3f last week, and there is little talk about this sensational debut hurdle performance.

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Rewind to last year's Champion bumper, and he pulled clear on the turn for home with Facile Vega, American Mike, James's Gate (out for the season) and Seabank Bistro to finish an excellent fifth.

He gave that form a boost with his debut hurdle performance here. He was keen early but settled well and wanted to go a stride quicker than his rivals on what was testing ground. Jamie Moore took him to the front, and he effortlessly glided clear. He won head in the chest with his jockey having to slow him into the final flight, and he took a pull at the finish line. It was a taking debut.

The form looks good, also. I fancied the runner-up of Nigel Twiston-Davies, Broadway Boy, to get in the frame after clocking a good time in a small field at Market Rasen, and he took a step forward here. The third, Scene One, looked like a nice future prospect and had previously filled the same spot behind Gelino Bello at Newbury when beaten 15 lengths. Everything seemed to add up here, so it was over to the clock.

Authorized Speed clocked a circuit time at least 20 lengths faster than anything else on the card and was heavily eased down after the final flight. Despite this, he clocked a two-out-to-finish time 16 lengths faster than the 123-rated handicap winner and eight lengths faster than the 3m handicap winner (they went very slow on the first circuit to allow them a quicker finishing time).

It's worth downplaying the performance, given the ground churned up throughout the day, but this was easily worthy of a conservative rating of 145. It's baffling to me how he is still available at the top price of 33/1 for the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle with Betfair, and being by Authorized, he is likely to improve for the extra distance there.

Trainer Gary Moore has only run three horses since 2009 in the Champion Bumper, and the other one broke the top five - Megastar. He went on to run in the Ballymore the following season and placed fifth at odds of 16/1, but his debut hurdle run was eight pounds inferior on RPR'S to Authorized Speed's 138 at Lingfield. RPR ratings of 135, 145, 149, 132, 145, 121, 144, 128, 138 and 136 are what the winners of the Ballymore Novice Hurdle recorded on their hurdle debut in the last ten years.

There was something a bit special about this, and he will likely mop up plenty of races this term. He might fall short at the business end against some promising Irish rivals, but he is one to keep on side before then.

Gerri looks good but don't get carried away!

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Gerri Colombe won nicely at Fairyhouse on Tuesday and subsequently cut into 7/1 for the Brown Advisory.

Still, I always thought he was well-positioned, and he didn't clear away from runner-up Bronn, who had made plenty of jumping errors on his round. He was slower from the back of the last than the third Tenzing, and the form could look better to me to justify his price. Bronn had been well held in the middle distance hurdle division last term and fell short of what is required, and he doesn't look like he is making up into a Grade 1 chaser either.

The RPR recorded was the lowest in the last five years but saying all that, there was a definite promise, and it would be folly to write him off, so we await the next run- I won't be touching 7/1, though.

Jonbon fanboy hype has to stop

It was a very good performance from Jonbon at Warwick this week, and only Altior, Shishkin and Gallopin Des Champs have bettered his RPR of 158 in recent times on chase debut. Jonbon was slashed for the Arkle into what many suggest is an "awful price", but previous Arkle winner's ante-post prices is not the way to judge the value here and neither is this RPR.

Instead, he is a terrible price because the Warwick SP did not reflect that of the already priced Arkle ante-post market, and the move from 9/2 into 2/1 is nothing more than fanboy hysteria. Monmiral was a 33/1 chance in the Arkle Market, so we learned no more than the market already suggested would happen.

Jonbon showed bright early speed and attacked his fences from the off. Monmiral tried to go with him but could only lay up with the pace until five out before dropping three to four lengths off his rival - likely at the expense of fitness after his trainer suggested he would come on for the run. At this point in the race, West Cork was around 12 lengths adrift and unable to match his two rivals for speed - although we suspect he is being handicapped, which leaves this race lacking in any substance for a price cut.

Jonbon kicked on and, at two out, was around 6.5 lengths clear of Monmiral, who had jumped slightly right and safe by giving his fences plenty of air. In turn, Jonbon was flat and fast despite not always being fluent and crossed the line seven and 16 lengths clear of his two rivals.

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In isolation, you couldn't have asked for much more from Jonbon on debut, and it was a performance that impressed me more than any of his last season. He killed this race during the early to mid part, and that's what a typical Arkle winner can do. He has set the bar, but how high it is is anyone's guess as we learned little, and he didn't leave me with the impression he is an unbeatable machine.

It's no more than interesting, but all three came home from the second last to the line in almost identical times (Monmiral quickest), and from four out to the line Jonbon only matched the 113-rated winner on the card.

There are lots of red flags for me with him, one of which is his finishing effort. While it wasn't under question at Aintree, he was ridden more conservatively there. El Fabiolo was badly hampered at the second last and was very inexperienced in a finish on just his second start (and wore a hood). It's not out of the question that he improves past him. How much did Jonbon have under the bonnet here at Warwick? Another question we can't really answer either, as neither of his rivals was really asked for a serious race.

He is also exuberant, highly strung, and sweats profusely. He was beaten 22 lengths in the Supreme Novice Hurdle last term after getting into a front-running duel with Dysart Dynamo to leave himself vulnerable to be picked up, which could easily happen again in the Arkle. Every piece of form you look at suggests he is a 150-155 horse, and that's ten pounds off your average Arkle winner. If you suspect Jonbon to be a 165-horse - which he will need to be to win an Arkle - then what rating would you give Constitution Hill?

Jonbon has an army of fans looking to recoup Supreme Novice Hurdle losses, and there was a considerable will from the public for Jonbon to win on this day which predictably caused a market overreaction. I know I would rather have 1/2 the field against him at this stage.

Blue Lord's another not for me

Blue Lord scored in a messy race at Clonmel on Thursday to be cut into 14/1 for the Ryanair Chase. I am not a fan, and I don't think he wants a step up in trip. I don't think he was good enough at the top table as a novice last season, and he hardly looked to be crying out for further in the Arkle and was helped by a slow stop-start gallop here.

At Haydock on Saturday, I was extremely impressed by Tahmuras winning the Betfair Weighed In Podcast Newton Novices' Hurdle. He powered clear in the style of a useful horse, and the Grade 1 Tolworth is reportedly up next. He was really impressive. I wasn't sure about the deep ground beforehand, but it was no trouble for him. He is as short at 16/1 for the Supreme Novice Hurdle and 20/1 for the Ballymore Novices Hurdle - that may be a stretch, but he is improving fast.

Hitman was an effortless winner of the Graduation Chase but was very much expected to win, and this was the best opportunity he had had for some time. He is a 14/1 chance for the Ryanair.

A Plus Tard was highly disappointing in the Betfair Chase 12 months on from his 22-length romp. This was clearly not the same horse, and the distress signals sounded from around the fourth last. This is the reason not to go overboard on the winner Protektorat who was cut into 10/1 for the Gold Cup - will he be much shorter on the day? A Plus Tard was pushed to 8/1.

At Punchestown, Kilcruit made a winning start to life over fences, but it wasn't at all pretty, and he didn't beat anything of note. There's room for improvement in his jumping, but a truly run race would probably find him out in this sphere.

There's no ante-post bet this week. I have decided to hold fire and see what next week brings. I have a few on the radar, but races are coming up, which will tell more.

Daryl's ante-post portfolio


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