Mullins is crowned champion UK trainer while Jonbon gets the better of El Fabiolo on Jump Finale Day

By Peter Moore at Sandown Saturday 27th April 2024

Willie Mullins became the first trainer based in Ireland to be crowned champion trainer over jumps in Britian since Vincent O’Brien 70 years ago when El Fabiolo finished second behind Jonbon in the Celebration Chase on the final day of the season on Saturday.

Despite being more than £700,000 behind Dan Skelton at the top of the standings heading into the Aintree festival this month, Mullins moved into striking distance when I Am Maximus won the Grand National, then all but sealed a first title in Britain when Macdermott won the Scottish Grand National, completing a four timer at Ayr seven days ago.

Mullins led Skelton by £181,632 at the start of Sandown’s end-of-season finale, with the Irish trainer sending over eight runners on the day.

El Fabiolo was no match for Jonbon in the Grade 1 Celebration Chase, but pipped Edwardstone for third to put the title out of reach of his nearest challenger Skelton and give Mullins the championship to add to the 17 he was won in Ireland.

Winning this prestigious award capped another outstanding day for Mullins who brought up a quick fire double when Minella Cocooner took the bet 365 handicap chase with Danny Mullins on board, then thirty five minutes later the maestro landed the bet 365 select hurdle race when Paul Townend rode the odds on favourite Impaire Et Passe to victory over the Dan Skelton trained Langer Dan by two lengths.

In his belated third clash with El Fabiolo, Jonbon was forcefully ridden by Nico de Boinville and, although he took the odd chance over his fences, he never looked likely to be headed as he took his record to 14 wins and three seconds under rules. 

“This horse is very important to everybody and a flagship really,” said trainer Nicky Henderson. “JP and I talk a lot but the amazing thing is every conversation starts, ‘How’s Jonbon?’. Another horse is lucky to get a mention in the conversation. I think this horse means a lot to him and he means a lot to me.”

Henderson’s season ended on a high when he saddled Fantastic Lady to land the Grade 2 Oaksey Chase.

The nine-year-old who was third in this race last year and finished sixth in the Topham at Aintree a few weeks ago was given the perfect ride by Nico de Boinville. He had the mare in the rear of the field before powering past Ga Law to win by two and a half lengths.

The successful Noel Fehily Racing Syndicate picked up their 25th winner of the campaign and their best winning season ever after Helnwein won the bet 365 novices Championship final under Tom Cannon.