Wednesday, February 3, 2010
You know honesty when you see it. Trainer Paul Nolan is as honest a man as you can meet, having never sat on a horse until he was 25, he took out a trainer’s license because he had nothing to lose as his livelihood as a farmer was so bad. Nolan, now a multiple Cheltenham, Galway Plate and Grade 1 race winning trainer has one of the most honest horses in training, 7 year old Joncol. Nolan understands that Joncol does not have the class of a Kauto Star or Denman and he proactively swerved entry in the Gold Cup for the shorter, 2mile 5 furlong Ryanair Chase. That race, now in its fifth year is still a valuable Grade one and Joncol is a general 8/1 chance has a very real opportunity of landing the honours.
Before Joncol makes the journey to Cheltenham for the first time, there is the small matter of the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup to contend with, a race which has been his main target for the year. Joncol is 3-1 second favourite for the Hennessy, behind last year’s runaway RSA winner and current 9-4 favourite Cooldine. However Cooldine has yet to win this term, his only outing being in the Lexus Chase where he pulled up before the last. There were excuses that day, Cooldine subsequently had an infection and although trainer Willie Mullins now admits he is very pleased with the horse, he may not be as fit as he can be. Joncol was 7-2 second favourite in the Lexus where he was ridden to the front of the pack and made little of the big fences. He took up the running at the 10th fence and attempted to gallop his rivals into submission. That tactic might have worked had he not made a mistake 3 out, this appeared to be the culmination of the habit of jumping slightly to the right on the day but he was soon back on terms but veered right again after the last fence and was headed 100 yards before the line by the Sir Alex Ferguson owned What A Friend.
Joncol has ran three times this season, in increasing distances each time, he was second to the classy Tranquil Sea in the 2 mile Poplar Square Chase in October, he won the 2 and a half mile John Durkan in early December, staying on under pressure from former Durkan winner ,In Compliance. In the John Durkan, Joncol raced in slipstream of Aran Concerto, he took up the running 4 out where he was briefly shaken up and joined by In Compliance but he responded and battled hard. Rallied by Alain Cawley, he quickened over the last where he was soon clear and won going away by 6 lengths His last run, a game third in the Lexus over 3 miles typifies how the 7 year old Bob’s Return gelding has travelled consistently well in all his races this year. Nolan believes the longer trip suits Joncol, he is after all a former Point to Pointer and the 3 mile 2 furlong distance in the Hennessey is sure to suit.
Joncol is a tough, consistent sort, he stays on strongly under pressure .His record out of 9 runs reads 5 wins and he has placed second and third twice of each. He is progressive; his runs so far this year have shown he stays focused while racing; his regular jockey Alain “Squeaky” Cawley adopts a sensible gameplan, keeping him in a prominent position, out of trouble. He has a realistic chance of winning the Hennessy, and if he improves again the 8-1 for the Ryanair looks tremendous value. Remember he is only 7, there is a bright future for the gelding and he is one to follow, for his cruising speed, his sharp jumping, his grit and if for anything else, his honesty