El Fabiolo remains unbeaten over fences following Hilly Way success

Willie Mullins' stranglehold on the Grade 2 Hilly Way Chase continued when El Fabiolo returned to action with a comfortable victory in Cork's feature on Sunday afternoon.

EL FABIOLO winning the Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices' Chase at Cheltenham in England.
EL FABIOLO winning the Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices' Chase at Cheltenham in England. Picture: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

The Willie Mullins-trained El Fabiolo made it a perfect five from five over fences with a commanding success in the Bar One Racing Hilly Way Chase on his reappearance, with all roads seemingly leading to a rematch with Jonbon, who advertised credentials in the Tingle Creek at Sandown just 24 hours ago.

El Fabiolo's sparkling novice campaign over fences included a resounding demolition of Jonbon in the Arkle at Cheltenham last season and the pair look set to do battle at Prestbury Park once more come March.

The Munir-owned six-year-old was sent off as short as 1/5 to make a successful return at Cork on Sunday and in all truth, victory never looked in down after Paul Townend allowed his mount to stride to the front with four fences to take. The son of Spanish Moon soon built up a healthy advantage and although connections were given a slight scare following a peck on landing over the final flight, Paul Townend never looked like losing the partnership and he only had to nudge out his mount for a ready four and three-quarter length success.

Fil Dor [7/1] did his best to keep tabs on the Queen Mother Champion Chase favourite, but he never really threatened to land a blow and eventually finished held back in second.

Paddy Power left the winner at 10/11 to land the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham in March, with old rival Jonbon a 5/2 chance following yesterday's Tingle Creek victory.

Mullins, who has saddled nine of the last ten winners of the Hilly Way, said: "I was a little worried as I had five other runners today and none of them shone so I was thinking this could be one of those days, but he got the job done.

"He was workmanlike and was very free with Paul over the first three fences. He didn't get too high [in jumping], and Paul was trying to not let his head go and didn't want him running too free.

"He relaxed at the second fence down the back straight and was able to do things properly. If he needed a race, Jack Kennedy [on runner-up Fil Dor] was there to test him, and he did."

Although many racing fans would have expected to have to wait until March for a rematch between El Fabiolo and Jonbon, a pre-Festival clash of the titans could be on the cards, with Mullins suggesting the Clarence House at Ascot would be his likely next target.

He added: "Jonbon did his job nicely, we got the job done today and we all have to get to Cheltenham.

"I don't where we'll go now – we'll look at Christmas as well, but he will probably go to Ascot for the Clarence House [in January]."

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