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Cheltenham Festival odds: Jonbon replaced as Arkle favourite after 'rusty' performance to win Kingmaker at Warwick

Jonbon (1/16 favourite) made to work hard to beat sole rival Calico in the Virgin Bet Kingmaker Novices' Chase at Warwick; Sky Bet ease Nicky Henderson's star to 2/1 for the Arkle at Cheltenham in March, with El Fabiolo now 11/10 favourite

Jonbon and Aidan Coleman head to the start at Warwick
Image: Jonbon and Aidan Coleman head to the start at Warwick

Jonbon was replaced as Arkle favourite, despite maintaining his unbeaten record over fences in the Virgin Bet Kingmaker Novices' Chase at Warwick.

Sent off at 1/16 to beat just one rival - Dan Skelton's Calico - following the morning withdrawal of two others, his trademark zip appeared to be missing at times.

Aidan Coleman sent Nicky Henderson's charge into an early lead and while he was doing things easily enough, he was not getting away from Calico.

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Halfway down the back straight Harry Skelton sensed an opportunity and sent Calico up Jonbon's inside, met the next fence on a perfect stride and soon found himself three lengths clear.

It took Jonbon a couple of fences to realise he had a race on his hands and Coleman was happy to challenge around Calico's outside on the final bend.

Once in front the race was never in doubt, but was rather workmanlike in winning by five and a half lengths.

He was pushed out by the bookmakers for the Arkle at Cheltenham next month, with Betfair going 2/1 from 11/8 and making Willie Mullins' El Fabiolo their 11/10 favourite. Coral make El Fabiolo their 5/4 favourite from 7/4, with Jonbon out to 13/8 from even money.

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Jonbon was faultless with his jumping during victory in the Henry VIII Novices' Chaseeeee
Image: Jonbon was faultless with his jumping during victory in the Henry VIII Novices' Chase earlier this season

Afterwards Coleman admitted: "It's a prep run and we knew he had plenty to work on. I schooled him the other morning and he schooled very well but he was very fresh. He jumped super again there and I was quite comfortable going to that fence there (down the back straight).

"I was going a good gallop and wasn't really wanting to press along too much bearing in mind it's a trial. Harry set his alight and winged it and although I didn't make a mistake Calico got going and I was kind of just chasing from there.

"I was always quite confident from three quarters of a mile out. I met the next three fences spot on and then put it to bed well. He was a bit rusty but he won it nicely so I'm happy with that.

"It probably looked a bit worse than it was but he's a very clever and accurate jumper. It's the exact same thing (as Haydock last year) in that we're coming here with stuff to work on.

"He's not been trained for this in particular - he was ready to go and we were really sweet on him, but at the same time it is a trial for the Arkle and that's why we're here. It was the exact same when we were warming up for Cheltenham at Haydock Park last year. He's fine in that ground though and we're very happy with him."

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