More McManus Magic Expected at Cheltenham 2024

In the lead-up to the Cheltenham Festival, much of the discussion understandably centres upon the horses, trainers and jockeys bidding for glory. But what about the owners? They are, after all, the individuals who make the sport tick and without them, there would be no festival.

In common with the trainers and jockeys, most National Hunt owners covet a win at the magical March meeting above all other events. For many, that aspiration remains but a dream. Others, however, make the stroll to the Cheltenham Winners Enclosure time and time again. Gigginstown House Stud and Miss Susannah Ricci are two examples, but over the years, no owner has tasted more Cheltenham Festival success than JP McManus.

The man behind those famous green and gold silks has struck gold at the meeting an incredible 73 times, witha the likes of Istabraq, Buveur D’Air, Baracouda, and many more putting his name up in lights – this is a man with a shrewd eye for an equine star. Now in his seventies, McManus remains as enthusiastic as ever and picked up four winners at the 2023 meeting. Ahead of the 2024 edition, McManus’s vast Cheltenham squad is one of the most perused by punters. With around 60 entries at the time of writing, JP will surely strike in at least one of the events, and here we present the lowdown on eight of his best chances.

Fact To File – Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase

Snapped up for €40,000 in 2018, this strapping son of Poliglote is yet to finish outside the first two in six career starts. Having finished second in the 2023 Champion Bumper, Fact To File showed plenty of promise in his debut campaign but has hit new heights over fences. Arriving seeking a hattrick, his displays this season have had time enthusiasts double-checking their stopwatches. Hot favourite for this Day 2 event, he rates one of McManus’s most obvious chances of the meeting.

Corbetts Cross – National Hunt Challenge Cup Amateur Jockeys’ Novices’ Chase

Whilst Fact To File ran well at the 2023 meeting, Corbetts Cross blotted his copybook in spectacular style. Well in contention approaching the final flight in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, he took the unusual decision of running through the wing of the hurdle rather than attempting to jump it. Generally well-behaved this season, he finished a solid second in Grade 1 company at Leopardstown but needs to bounce back from a fall at Fairyhouse. Many punters’ idea of a future Grand National winner, he has the talent to go close in this – if putting his best hoof forward.

Jonbon – Queen Mother Champion Chase

Always the bridesmaid and never the bride – such has been the case for the admirable Jonbon at the Cheltenham Festival. Second when left trailing in the wake of Constitution Hill in the 2022 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, he again had to make do with the silver medal when almost six lengths adrift of El Fabiolo in the 2023 Arkle Chase. Next up, a tilt at the two-mile chasing championship, where nemesis El Fabiolo once again lies in wait. That’s a tough assignment, but as a five-time Grade 1 winner, this Nicky Henderson star is not without a chance.

Dinoblue – Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase

JP McManus sent out Bloody Mary to finish third in the inaugural edition of this in 2011 but has failed to trouble the judge since. Bidding to change all that in 2024 is this impressive mare from the Willie Mullins operation. Having landed a Grade 1 event at the Leopardstown Christmas Meeting and finished second to El Fabiolo last time out, she’s a short-price favourite back in against her fellow females. Her form is rock solid, but having suffered defeat at the past two Festivals, she does need to prove she can hit those peaks at this track.

Meetingofthewaters – Ultima Handicap Chase

A last-minute addition to the green and gold squad, McManus splashed the clash to purchase this seven-year-old chaser on the 6th of March 2024. Touted as a future Gold Cup contender in some quarters, this year he has the opening handicap of the meeting in his sights. Having won the race in 2003, 2009, and 2012, McManus knows the type needed to succeed and must have seen something he likes in this son of Court Cave.

Inothewayurthinkin– Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Amateur Jockey’s Handicap Chase

McManus also boasts a formidable record in one of the meeting’s major events for the amateur riders – picking up the trophy with Sunnyhillboy (2012), Cause of Causes (2016), and Any Second Now (2019). Flying the green and gold flag this year is this unexposed sort from the yard of the ever-shrewd Gavin Cromwell. He’s without a win since November 2022, but don’t be surprised if he shows much more in what will be his major target of the season.

Jeriko Du Reponet– Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

The massed ranks of the Irish battalion dominate the market in the festival-opening Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, with six of the first seven in the betting hailing from the Emerald Isle. The odd one out is this striking Nicky Henderson-trained five-year-old. Unbeaten in four career starts, he has done all that has been asked and looks the most likely to lay down a challenge to Willie Mullins. Henderson has won this five times, whilst McManus has two previous successes.

Iroko– Turners Novice’ Chase

Rounding out the excellent eight is this up-and-coming six-year-old from the Oliver Greenall & Josh Guerriero yard. Long held in the highest regard by connections, Iroko delivered a huge day in the sun for his relatively small operation when storming home late to grab the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle at the 2023 Festival. Having scored in grand style on his seasonal return at Warwick in November, a setback looked to have ruled the horse out for the season. However, Iroko has surprised his training duo with a quicker-than-expected recovery and may yet make it for a crack at this Grade 1 prize.