17 January 2024

El Fabiolo firmly on course for Ascot, weather permitting

17 January 2024

El Fabiolo remains on course for Ascot’s BetMGM Clarence House Chase on Saturday.

While most of southern England is currently white over due to a succession of freezing nights, with more to come, there is hope in the forecast that it may warm up in time for the weekend.

It would be a huge shame if the meeting does not go ahead, as Willie Mullins’ El Fabiolo is due to meet the Nicky Henderson-trained Jonbon, with the score between the two currently standing at one win each.

However, should the meeting be lost to the weather and rerouted to Cheltenham the following weekend, as it was last year, El Fabiolo appears unlikely to make the journey.

“We took him to the Curragh yesterday, Paul (Townend) rode him, he went very well so the plan at the moment is to head to Ascot at the weekend,” said assistant trainer Patrick Mullins on Sky Sports Racing.

“The plan is, as long as the race is going to go ahead, we’ll probably take the boat on Thursday afternoon. If it’s called off and he had to come home we’ll probably wait for the Dublin Racing Festival which is on our doorstep and worth great money as well.”

He went on: “To be honest I’d have thought the Dublin Racing Festival seemed the more obvious choice, but Willie, Simon (Munir) and Isaac (Souede, owners) seemed very keen to go to Ascot.

It will be a spectacular race, great for the sport. Both teams are going in thinking that they have a live chance

“Jonbon looks like a horse who is improving all the time and he’s a brother to Douvan, but I think we were very unlucky not to beat him in the novice hurdle (at Aintree), we got hampered at the third-last and made a mistake at the last and we beat him well at Cheltenham last year.

“You never know, the score is 1-1, hopefully we can make it 2-1 but there will be another rematch later if we don’t.

“It will be a spectacular race, great for the sport. Both teams are going in thinking they have a live chance.

“It’s a bit like in boxing when you get a trilogy. Hopefully they all get there and the race pans out as you hope, but we’re delighted with our fellow.

“He’s not a natural super-sharp two-miler (over a fence), he does have his own style. The day he won at the DRF with Daryl (Jacob) he put down at the fourth-last, but he seems to know where he is putting his feet. He generally keeps his hind end low which gives him a good centre of balance and, touch wood, while it is his own style, it does seem to be very effective.”

An update on conditions at Ascot released on social media read: “The track is currently frozen in places under the covers in the shaded areas of the racecourse.

“This is an improvement on yesterday morning but the forecast indicates a more severe forecast over the next two nights with temperatures due to drop as low as minus 5C.

“The forecast beyond that remains conflicting with the possibility of milder conditions arriving. We will continue to monitor and update as we get closer to raceday.”

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