Leading Owner JP McManus’s Top Chances At 2021 Cheltenham Festival
2021 Cheltenham Festival Tips – JP McManus’s top chances at the Festival
JP McManus is the most successful owner in the history of the Cheltenham Festival. He enjoyed his first winner at the meeting with Mister Donovan in 1982. His famous green and gold silks were carried to victory in the Cheltenham Gold Cup by Synchronized in 2012.
Istabraq won three consecutive Champion Hurdles for McManus from 1998 to 2000. He was denied the chance of a record-breaking fourth victory when the meeting was cancelled due to the foot and mouth outbreak. McManus has now won the Champion Hurdle a record nine times, Buveur D’Air providing him with a landmark 50th Festival victory in 2017. Last season his colours returned to the winner’s enclosure seven times including a remarkable four-timer on day 2.
Epatante (Champion Hurdle, Tuesday)
Epatante will defend her Champion Hurdle title for McManus and try to extend his winning sequence to five in the race after Buveur D’Air (2017, 2018) and Espoir d’Allen (2019).
She suffered a shock defeat at Kempton in the Christmas Hurdle on Boxing Day when unable to reel in the front-running Silver Streak. Trainer Nicky Henderson has since identified a back problem as the probable cause and is confident that she will be back to her best for the opening day of the Cheltenham festival.
Champ (Gold Cup, Friday)
Champ is set to represent McManus in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, the winner of last season’s RSA Chase.
The talented nine-year-old was a top class staying hurdler and successfully converted that form to the larger obstacles last year. He made up 8 lengths from the last fence to catch Minella Indo at the festival but his preparation has not gone smoothly. Nicky Henderson has been thwarted by the weather on several occasions but hopes to have the gelding in top form for the Gold Cup.
Easysland (Cross-Country Chase, Wednesday)
Easysland is arguably McManus’s best chance of a winner at this year’s meeting in the Cross Country Chase, which follows the Champion Chase on Day 2 of the Cheltenham Festival. He lowered the colours of dual Grand National winner Tiger Roll last season, powering 17 lengths clear on the run-in. He can be forgiven his fourth behind Kingswell Theatre in November when he was attempting to concede 22lbs to the winner and there will be plenty of Cheltenham Festival Free Bets floating around for this horse
Elimay (Mares Chase, Friday)
Elimay will carry the green and gold in the inaugural Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase on the final day of the festival. She is trained by Willie Mullins who has since announced that stable companion and main market rival Benie Des Dieux will miss the meeting. Elimay was a comfortable winner at Naas in February, her third win in four starts over fences.
Jonathan Sweeney trains Roseys Hollow for McManus, another mare with excellent Cheltenham prospects. She booked her festival ticket with a 2 lengths victory over Royal Kahala at Fairyhouse in February and is among the favourites for the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle.
Best Of The Rest
Sire Du Berlais has won the Pertemps Handicap Hurdle Final for the past two seasons for Gordon Elliott. He has stepped up in class this year, winning a Grade 2 at Navan before finishing third in the Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown. He could not land a blow at the front-running Flooring Porter but it would be no surprise to see him reverse the form in the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham. It is worth remembering that he has saved his best for the festival in the past two seasons.
Thedevilscoachman looks set to take his chance in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle after a comfortable success at Punchestown. He was a long way behind Supreme favourite Appreciate It in December but seems to be improving and could reward each-way support. Sporting John returned to form with a win in the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase at Sandown. He could take on Envoi Allen in the Marsh Novices’ Chase if the going is heavy but may switch to the three-mile RSA Chase if conditions are less testing.
McManus will be well represented throughout the Cheltenham festival and will be shuffling his pack among his numerous trainers. Henderson has plenty of options for Chantry House, Dame De Compagnie and Dickie Diver. Chantry House had a confidence-boosting win at Wetherby in February while Dickie Diver caught the eye when second at Newbury at the end of December.
Dame De Compagnie landed a gamble in last season’s Coral Cup and was unlucky to unseat Nico de Boinville at Sandown last time. With entries in almost every race at the festival, it will be a major surprise if JP McManus does not add to his impressive Cheltenham tally in 2021.