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Cheltenham Festival: Supreme Novices' Hurdle hope Jonbon impresses Nicky Henderson in Kempton spin

Epatante, Constitution Hill and Tweed Skirt joined Jonbon for a workout at Kempton on Tuesday; both Jonbon and Constitution Hill are among the market leaders for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle; Captain Morgs, I Am Maximus and Dusart all worked out

Jonbon cruises to victory at Ascot
Image: Jonbon cruises to victory at Ascot - can he do the same at the Cheltenham Festival?

Jonbon put any rumours about his well-being to rest with a sparkling piece of work under Aidan Coleman as Nicky Henderson put 10 horses through their paces at Kempton.

The Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle hope drifted out on the exchanges over the weekend, but subsequently firmed up again and is currently 4-1 with the sponsors for the March 15 opener at the Cheltenham Festival.

Jonbon, who was on his toes beforehand, was the first to work on his own under Aidan Coleman and strode out nicely. He was followed by Epatante (Coleman), Constitution Hill (Nico de Boinville) and Tweed Skirt (James Bowen) in the second group.

Jonbon on his way to victory on hurdles debut at Newbury
Image: Jonbon on his way to victory on hurdles debut at Newbury

Captain Morgs (Bowen), I Am Maximus (De Boinville), Ahorsewithnoname (Coleman) were in the next trio to work and the spin was completed by Dusart (De Boinville), Dame De Compagnie (Coleman) and Pistol Whipped (Bowen).

Henderson laughed off rumours about Jonbon, which had left him incredulous when he arrived at Kempton last weekend.

He said: "We just know this sort of thing happens and it is absolute rubbish - at least I know it is rubbish. But trying to convince people! Once it starts, it is a joke.

"It was all around the racecourse, wherever I went. What is wrong with him? You saw for yourself. He is a bigger price than he was since before he ran!"

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Image: Constitution Hill landing the Grade One Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown

The Seven Barrows handler, who was joined by Constitution Hill's owner, Michael Buckley, was satisfied with the work.

"Nothing went badly wrong, which was nice," he said. "They are never guaranteed to go exactly as you expect, but I would say by and large there were no nasty shocks, which was good.

"The amazing thing was their times. They are so consistent, each one was within a second or a second and a half of each one.

"Some find it easier than others as you saw, but I was so pleased with Jonbon, with his whole demeanour, his behaviour and everything.

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"If he'd have got himself at all wound up, I was perfectly happy enough to take him straight home and not even go out there.

"He didn't throw him around. He is much better doing his own thing. He doesn't need any more winding up. He's fit and I thought he strode out really well. He was moving beautifully."

He added: "It is just to get this little sharpness into them. It is not actually that they need a gallop. One or two of them do; Epatante hasn't run since Christmas and had a good blow and she definitely needed a gallop.

"I purposely haven't come with Shishkin. He didn't need another gallop after Ascot. He worked this morning at home and Nico was pleased with him.

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"The others who didn't come were Chantry House and Champ, because they had races on Trials Day. They are not short (of a gallop).

"These are the ones that haven't run for a length of time, just to get them out there and it just sparks them up a little bit. It is not that you are doing that much more. It is just a day out and it puts a spring in their step to be honest with you and they enjoy it.

"It is what they are born and bred to do. They know where they are and they go out there as happy as you like. They enjoy it."

While Jonbon may have been on his toes, Constitution Hill drew a couple of lengths clear in his work, and "looked a picture", according to his owner.

"I don't know what to make of these gallops," said Buckley. "I just thought he looked well in himself, but Nicky will know if he worked well or not. It is a nice day out, anyway."

Watch the latest Off The Fence episode
Watch the latest Off The Fence episode

Barry Geraghty, Tony Keenan and Vanessa Ryle review Saturday's Ascot Chase as well as taking a look ahead to the Champion Chase and Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

The plan is for the Cheltenham hopefuls to do one more serious piece of work.

"They will have a gallop on the grass over a mile on Tuesday and we might stagger the days a little bit according to which days they are running, but Jonbon and Constitution Hill have never been together and they are not going to go together - it is as simple as that. Epatante will also work on Tuesday."

Henderson added: "I was pleased with them. I didn't want to see anything I didn't want to see.

"Anything can go wrong. You are working these horses at speed. Lots of things can happen. They can break blood vessels. They can do serious damage to themselves standing in a box.

"When you are doing anything like this, the first thing you are trying to do is make sure it all works and there are no disasters.

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"Touch wood, if A finishes in front of B that finishes in front of C, that is not relevant. I could probably tell you which order they were going to finish in.

"But the interesting thing was the times were very consistent. It doesn't show you that anybody has gone faster than anybody else."

He added: "Getting them there fit and well is the important thing.

"It is squeaky-bum time - and that applies to every trainer in the country."

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