Cheltenham Tips

Arkle Preview 2023: El Fabiolo to gain revenge on old rival Jonbon

El Fabiolo and Jonbon jumping a hurdle at Aintree.
Daryl takes a look at a competitive Arkle Trophy.

Back with another ante-post preview is Daryl Carter, and this time tackles the exciting renewal of the Arkle...

  • Daryl takes a closer look at the Arkle contenders

  • Fancies El Fabiolo to reverse hurdle form with Jonbon

  • Why speed demon Dynamo could be the key player

The Arkle Challenge Trophy is a Grade 1 at the Cheltenham Festival open to horses aged five years or older. It's run on the Old Course over a distance of 2 miles (1 mile, 7 furlongs and 199 yards), and there are 13 fences to be jumped.

Jonbon's preparation has been floorless but...

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Nicky Henderson's Supreme Novice runner-up Jonbon 2.68/5 has taken to fences like a duck to water and has shown excellent speed and accuracy at his fences in two starts to date. He will likely head to the Kingmaker at Warwick and follow in the tried and tested path of many Arkle winners before him, including last year's winner Edwardstone.

On speed figures, I have him running to around the 160 mark on his Sandown effort when pulverising a very useful yardstick and subsequent Grade 2 Wayward Lad winner in Boothill. That was the second time making all of the running to pull clear effortlessly, and he is very hard to find fault with.

The form of his two starts over fences is nothing to get too excited about, and perhaps that's where the catch lies. Only two of the five rivals (one in each race) were worthy of putting up any challenge, and the first of those from his debut at Warwick in the form of Monmiral has been beaten since.

He has looked very good, but it's easy to argue that he should have.

The calibre of opponent he has beaten - Boothill, a 51.050/1 chance in this contest - should give readers a good idea of the level of those that Jonbon has been facing, and it's easy to argue Harry Fry's runner has been the best of them. However, you wouldn't fancy that horse to be much better than a rating of 155, and you can bet your bottom dollar something in Ireland will run well above that.

Can El Fabiolo gain revenge?

Willie Mullins' El Fabiolo 7.06/1 got to within a neck of Jonbon over hurdles at Aintree despite being hampered at the second last flight and was wearing a first-time hood. That was a smashing effort from the youngster, given it was just his second career start, and he stepped up from a heavy ground Tramore Maiden into a good ground Aintree Grade 2.

He finished out last season with a good win at Punchestown before making a striking seasonal debut over fences. His jumping was sloppy in parts, but he recorded a very good time when winning in no more than a canter and recorded an RPR of 159.

His jumping will need to improve to match his old rival Jonbon, but he has such a high cruising speed that a strongly run 2m chase will suit him.

El Fabiolo is only a six-year-old with just four runs under his belt, but connections have wasted little time getting him over a fence, and his future looks bright.

Will Appreciate It make up for lost time?

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Willie Mullins' second representative is the 2021 Supreme Novice Hurdle winner, Appreciate It 6.05/1, who has got his career back on track with two facile victories over fences. Still, he has achieved less in those two runs than any of his rivals in this field, and we await to see him in a competitive race to find out if more.

He has done little wrong, but I was very much against him as a Novice and probably still hold some grudge. The Supreme Novice Hurdle he won has worked out dreadfully, but he shouldn't be judged too harshly, given he won that by a distance.

According to reports from his jockey he has been idle in front when having to make all of his own running, and comments suggest he will be better with a lead.

That gives me the feeling he will stay at 2m, with many having suggested that a step up in trip to the Turners could be on the cards. A strongly run 2m would suit him best, and he is a live player. We just don't know how live.

The Dublin Racing Festival looks next on the agender for him with entries in the Arkle Chase and the 2m5f Novice Chase. I expect him to race in the former.

Speedy Dynamo is the same mould as Jonbon

The free-going Dysart Dynamo 5.04/1 looked to have settled much better for fences when making a winning start in no more than a canter at Leopardstown. He beat Irascible - a horse nine lengths and 33 lengths behind Appreciate It over hurdles - by 28 lengths, and his jumping was immaculate.

Despite having no real rival to contend with, he impressed me with this debut performance. I didn't expect him to take to fences as well, as he has, and he is in the same mould as favourite Jonbon. He is fast and slick over his fences and one that wants to get on with the job.

He could be the key component in this race as he is an out-and-out two-miler, and he loves to front-run and that could mean this race turns into a stamina contest rather than a speed one.

He makes plenty of appeal if you knew he would get a free lead, and it may be best to wait to see the makeup of the race before placing your chips down.

Another who is likely to go to the Dublin Racing Festival and compete against his stablemates.

The Verdict

There are others that could play a part in this contest - we all await Sir Gerhard's 15.014/1 final target - but the winner is highly likely to come from the above four. I need to see Dysart Dynamo again.

I have made the mistake of backing a foot-perfect Novice after just one run only to find out they empty at the slight mistake next time and get put off a rhythm.

How he will react to that remains to be seen. While Appreciate It is very much the same. He doesn't have the pace of Jonbon or Dysart Dynamo, but he will get the lead connections say he craves (although did make most of the running over hurdles).

El Fabiolo bulldozed a couple of fences on debut, but it didn't stop his momentum, and he has a sizeable engine that will thrive off a strongly run 2m contest. The stiff finish will play to his strengths, and his jumping is likely to improve. He is just six, and there is surely more to come. He gets the vote at this stage but the Dublin Racing Festival is not to be missed.

1. El Fabiolo
2. Jonbon
3. Dysart Dynamo
4. Appreciate It


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