THERE is a long way to go before J.P. McManus knows whether the £570,000 he spent on Jonbon (Walk In The Park) was value for money. A then record priced point-to-pointer when he was sold at the Goffs UK November Sale held at Yorton Farm in 2020, the price being matched weeks later, Jonbon remains unbeaten after three starts, winning a point-to-point, a bumper and now a maiden hurdle.
At the time of his sale I reported as follows. “Jonbon. Remember the name. The four-year-old full-brother to Douvan burst onto the scene last weekend when winning a point-to-point at Dromahane by 15 lengths. On Thursday he sold for a record £570,000 to J.P. McManus at the Goffs UK November P2P Sale which was held at Yorton Stud in Wales. The son of Walk In The Park is the most expensive point-to-pointer ever sold at public auction.
“Douvan, still in training with Willie Mullins, has been lightly raced in recent seasons due to injury, but has won 15 of his 19 races, eight of them at Grade 1 level. Jonbon was consigned by Ellmarie Holden who saddled him to win in the hands of Derek O’Connor. The gelding was purchased at the Tattersalls Ireland Derby Sale last year by Holden’s father Paul and their bloodstock advisor Michael Shefflin of Anshoon Stud [costing €140,000].
“Holden said after the gelding’s win: ‘Derek thinks very highly of the horse. He’s a bit of a looker alright. He’s a nice horse and from the day he landed in the yard everything came so easy to him; he’s very straightforward’.
“Bidding for Jonbon opened at £200,000 and quickly jumped in chunks of £25,000 to £500,000. J.P. McManus placed his bids by telephone with Goffs UK managing director Tim Kent. The leading owner looked to have secured the horse for half a million pounds until a late bid came in at £525,000 from holiday park owner Tony Barney.
“Auctioneer Henry Beeby soon had a return bid of £550,000 from McManus and again the gavel was in the air when Barney, who was there in person, went another £10,000 to £560,000.
Beeby was obliged to offer McManus the same opportunity to go another £10,000 and he responded positively. This time there was no comeback and the sale was completed.
“Although there has been no indication from McManus as to who will train the horse, speculation around the sales ring was that Jonbon was likely to stay in England.
“Next week at Arqana one of the sale highlights is expected to be a two-year-old own-brother to Douvan and Jonbon.”
Well, that suggested highlight turned out to be a damp squib when the full-brother failed to sell at €130,000, the second time he visited a sale ring and returned home with ‘not sold’ beside his name. Then, in May this year Rich Ricci announced that three of his racing superstars, Faugheen, Douvan and Benie Des Dieux, had been retired. Now the focus is very much on the emerging talent that is Jonbon in the family.
He is only the second runner and the second winner for his dam Star Face, a daughter of Saint Des Saints (Cadoudal). Jonbon was bred in France by Lotfi Kohli, the Tunisian-based breeder who owns Haras Agrolux. Together with Marc-Antoine Berghgracht of MAB Agency he bought Star Face for a mere €2,000 at Arqana when Douvan had just turned two, and took her to Tunisia.
Star Face was trained by Guillaume Macaire and made a single start as a four-year-old, over hurdles at Royan La Palmyre, Eight went to post and Star Face was last of the five finishers. She was then packed off to stud and Douvan was her first produce. Jonbon is her fourth, while her sixth produce is a yearling son of Doctor Dino (Muhtathir).
One of the two unraced offspring between Douvan and Jonbon is the Charming Groom (Kaldoun) mare Kalimama. She was sold privately to Willie Mullins and is now owned by Aidan Devaney. Her first produce is, you might have guessed it, a two-year-old son of Walk In The Park (Montjeu), and there is a yearling full-sister also.
The influence of Coolmore’s Walk In The Park on this family doesn’t end there. Star Face’s dam Folie Star Gate (Saint Preuil), a four-time winner over jumps in France, is the dam of two winners and both are by the Group 1 Derby runner-up who started his stud career in France at Haras du Val Raquet, moved to Haras des Granges for three seasons and then relocated to Grange Stud following the exploits of Douvan and Min.
One of that pair of winners is the three-year-old Delante (Walk In The Park) and she was an impressive debut winner over hurdles at Fontainbleau at the end of October, trained by Hugo Merienne. It would be no surprise to see her race in Ireland or England in the future.
While Douvan is undoubtedly the best horse in the family in four generations, Jonbon’s third dam Miss French (Mistigri), whose only foal is Folie Star Gate, was a full-sister to the Grade 3 hurdle winner Discover D’Auteuil. Indeed five of his six wins were in blacktype hurdle races, though they did come from 37 starts. Nonetheless he went to stud and sired at least two blacktype winners over jumps.