2021 Cheltenham Festival preview – JP McManus’ Festival battalion set for more Cheltenham success

JP McManus Cheltenham Festival runners. We look at some of the top owner's Cheltenham Festival team.JP McManus Cheltenham Festival runners. We look at some of the top owner's Cheltenham Festival team.

JP McManus Cheltenham Festival runners

A hugely successful race horse owner and legendary gambler whose battles with the late Freddie Willams are carved in Cheltenham Festival folklore, JP McManus’ famous green and white hooped silks are sure to be prominent once again during the 2021 Cheltenham Festival where his colours will feature on a number of high-profile chances throughout the four days. We’ve picked out some of the JP McManus Cheltenham Festival runners who could go well.

Since Mister Donovan scored for McManus back in 1982 the Limerick-born businessman has enjoyed plenty of success at the Cheltenham Festival and hit the 50 winner mark in 2017 when his Buveur D’air won his first Champion Hurdle.

That was McManus’ sixth Champion Hurdle winner and he’s won all three since with Buveur D’air again in 2018, the ill-fated Espoir d’Allen in 2019 and twelve months ago Epatante came out on top. Thus far only the Queen Mother Champion Chase has eluded McManus among the Festival championship races where he’s also collected three Stayers’ Hurdle titles and a Cheltenham Gold Cup.

JP McManus will be well represented again throughout the course of the four days with a number of big name runners going to post and we’ve picked out a few of the likelier JP McManus Cheltenham Festival runners who could feature in the Graded races and who ought to go well.

Keep an eye though on the handicaps once the runners are known; McManus is sure to have a couple lined up for those and there could be some value to be had with Cheltenham free bets!


JP McManus runners on day one

Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

McManus looks to hold decent claims of success with THEDEVILSCOACHMAN in the day one Cheltenham Festival opener and the Noel Meade-trained gelding is improving with every run.

His sole defeat has come behind ante-post favourite Appreciate It when contesting the Future Champion Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown over Christmas where he wasn’t helped by a couple of mistakes that put him on the back foot although the winner was impressive.

The Elusive Pimpernel gelding has won both starts since at Navan and Punchestown latest in a Listed contest and there could be better to come from him. He will need to improve to overturn Leopardstown form with Willie Mullins’ runner but he can make his presence felt in the opener.

Champion Hurdle

As entries stand McManus’ colours could be carried by three runners in the race – Saint Roi, dual-champion Buveur D’air and EPATANTE who is the defending champion having won the race twelve months ago.

Trained my Nicky Henderson who is also responsible for Buveur D’air the No Risk At All mare had been sent off favourite for the 2019 Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle but she disappointed before returning next season to win all three starts in good fashion, impressive in winning this race by three lengths from Sharjah.

Having bolted up on her reappearance in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle she relinquished her Christmas Hurdle crown when meeting defeat at Kempton behind Silver Streak. She was later reported to have been in season however which might account for her below par effort and it would be no surprise to see her bouncing back where she is likely to mount a bold bid in defence of her Champion Hurdle crown.

JP McManus Cheltenham Festival team. Epatante will bid to give the legendary trainer another Champion Hurdle crown.

JP McManus Cheltenham Festival team. Epatante will bid to give the legendary trainer another Champion Hurdle crown.

David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle

McManus’ Elimay holds an entry here but is likely to go for the inaugral mares’ chase later in the week which will leave DAME DE COMPAGNIE as his big hope for a winner in this race which could well cut up with Honeysuckle and Roksana both potentially taking in other targets.

That could see Nicky Henderson’s charge leap higher in the ante-post betting and the Lucarno mare might appreciate reverting to hurdles having unseated at Sandown in the recent Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase.

The 2020 Coral Cup winner did score at the first attempt over fences when taking an Ayr contest although she wasn’t always convincing with her jumping and she again wasn’t foot perfect at Sandown before being badly hampered by the fall of Hitman and getting rid of Nico de Boinville.

She holds several entries at the Festival but might benefit from a spell back over hurdles and in this race she would hold solid claims if as expected some of the principals take in other prizes.

National Hunt Chase

Nicky Henderson’s DICKIE DIVER could prove an ideal type for this contest and the lightly raced Gold Well gelding is interesting in this line-up although he also has an entry in the former RSA Chase.

Very smart over hurdles in a light campaign which saw him go close behind subsequent Stayers’ Hurdle winner Lisnagar Oscar on his debut he was impressive at Chepstow next time before running a very creditable fourth to Minella Indo in the 2019 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle.

He returned from a long absence to post a very good second behind Paint The Dream at Newbury where he shaped as if he’d benefit from a stiffer test so this marked step up in trip could well unlock further improvement and he’s shown he can go well fresh so having not had a run since ought not to be too much of a concern.

McManus won this in 2016 with Minella Rocco and if lining up here Dickie Diver could give the legendary owner another winner in the race.

JP McManus Cheltenham Festival runners on day two

Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle

McManus has just one possible runner in the Cheltenham day two opener where his GENTLEMAN DE MEE could line up.

The Saint Des Saints gelding is trained in Ireland by Willie Mullins and having twice finished runner-up in France for Guillame Macaire he got off the mark at the first attempt for Mullins when impressively landing the odds at Naas in February.

Making most of the running he overcame a late mistake and won easily in the end; given it was his first outing in more than a year he can be expected to come on markedly for that run and open to plenty of improvement he would have to be respected if taking his place in the line up.

Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase

With Dame De Compagnie and Dickie Diver both potentially taking in alternate prizes it could fall to SPORTING JOHN to fly the flag for JP McManus and Philip Hobbs’ charge looked a strong stayer in grinding out victory over Shan Blue in the recent Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase.

A former point-to-point winner he also struck three times over hurdles before proving no match for Envoi Allen in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, and he possibly just needed the run at Exeter on his reappearance behind Fiddlerontheroof.

He stepped up on that outing to stay on strongly up the Sandown hill in attritional ground although the victory didn’t look likely earlier in the race as he dropped out following a slow jump early on before staying on stoutly.

Faced with an even stiffer test such as that he’ll experience in this race he looks a strong staying type who could be suited by the demands of this race.

JP McManus Cheltenham Festival team. Sporting John could relish the step up in trip in the Festival three miler.

JP McManus Cheltenham Festival team. Sporting John could relish the step up in trip in the Festival three miler.

Champion Chase

McManus is yet to win this race and relies on the consistent but hard to win with FAKIR D’OUDAIRIES whose last win came in the 2019 Drinmore Novices’ Chase.

Joseph O’Brien’s charge has finished runner-up in four of his five starts since, most recently chasing home ante-post favourite Chacun Pour Soi in the Dublin Chase.

He also finished runner-up in last season’s Arkle Chase – often a decent pointer to this race – and he’s no forlorn hope although he’ll likely find one too good again and has work to do on past form with Willie Mullins’ star.

Glenfarclas Chase

French raider EASYSLAND will carry McManus’ famous silks in this race where the Gentlewave gelding will bid to retain the crown he won twelve months ago when trouncing dual-champion Tiger Roll by 17 lengths.

That was his seventh successive victory having also won the December renewal which was run as a handicap prior to being bought for McManus. He likely needed his return in the November renewal this term when finishing fourth and David Cottin’s charge is likely to prove a tough nut to crack back here.

JP McManus Cheltenham Festival runners on day three

Marsh Novices’ Chase

Sporting John could well take in this race although his strong staying win at Sandown recently marked him as a possible candidate for the former RSA Chase; while Dame De Compagnie could go back over hurdles for the Mares’ Hurdle.

If neither of those McManus-owned runners take in this race the legendary trainer could still be represented by CHANTRY HOUSE who got back to winning ways at Wetherby in February with a bloodless success over Coconut Splash.

Nicky Henderson’s charge progressed well last term, winning three times following his switch from the point-to-point ranks and there was no shame in finishing third behind stablemate Shishkin in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

Sent chasing this term he was impressive in the face of a straightforward debut task at Ascot but possibly was amiss in disappointing at this venue next time behind Fusil Raffles. The Henderson yard was relatively quiet at that time however and he showed what he can do back from a break at Wetherby latest.

With the potential for better still to some he could rate a player in this contest and a big run wouldn’t be a surprise from the Yeats gelding.

JP McManus Cheltenham Festival team. Chantry House (right) could contest the Marsh Novices' Hurdle.

JP McManus Cheltenham Festival team. Chantry House (right) could contest the Marsh Novices’ Hurdle.

Stayers’ Hurdle

Although last year’s RSA Chase winner Champ features in the entries for the Cheltenham Festival day three feature race Nicky Henderson’s charge is likely to head to the Gold Cup; McManus though still holds a decent chance with his SIRE DU BERLAIS who could bid to get back on track in this race.

He has a good record at this venue and has won the last two renewals of the Pertemps Final, the latest seeing him beating The Storyteller and he’s picked up where he left off this term with a win at Navan in the Lismullen Hurdle before losing little caste in defeat behind Flooring Porter in the Christmas Hurdle.

Proven over this trip and track he could bounce back with another big effort and he would have to be respected given his record here.

Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle

McManus boasts a strong hand in this contest where his big hope could come in the shape of ROSEYS HOLLOW who would be chasing a hat-trick of wins and the Beat Hollow mare is progressing with each start.

Jonathan Sweeney’s charge won at Fairyhouse in January before returning to that track in February to beat Royal Kahala in the Solerina Mares’ Hurdle and with further improvement likely to come from her she looks a strong player in the race and can make her presence felt if taking her chance.

JP McManus Cheltenham Festival day four runners

Cheltenham Gold Cup

CHAMP will fly the flag for JP McManus and trainer Nicky Henderson in the Cheltenham Festival fourth day feature and the King’s Theatre gelding could relish this test.

Progressive over hurdles where his sole defeat came when finishing second in the 2019 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle he has continued his ascent to the top over fences where he won his first two starts which included the Berkshire Novices’ Chase although his attempt to win the Dipper Novices’ Chase met with failure when crashing out at the second last with the race at his mercy.

He bounced back however to grind out a win in the RSA Chase twelve months ago although he looked beaten and booked for third behind Minella Indo and Allaho before rattling home up the hill to land what had looked an unlikely success and he could appreciate this even stiffer test of stamina that sees him take in an extra quarter-mile.

He’s had wind surgery since that win and is due to return in the Game Spirit Chase which although will be over a trip considerably shorter than his best will blow away any cobwebs and he’ll head to Cheltenham with a big chance.

JP McManus Cheltenham Festival team. Champ looks the big McManus hope in the Gold Cup.

JP McManus Cheltenham Festival team. Champ looks the big McManus hope in the Gold Cup.

Foxhunters’ Chase

McManus could have three runners in the race including Minella Rocco who is a past Chetenham Festival winner and finished fifth in the race twelve months ago.

However in STAKER WALLACE McManus looks to hold stronger claims and Enda Bolger’s charge could get back on the winning trail having found only one too good at Naas latest in the useful Billaway.

The King’s Theatre gelding has been a regular winner between the flags and he finished fourth in this race twelve months ago behind It Came To Pass where he was possibly just given too much to do. He’s since twice finished runner-up in points before getting back to winning ways at Limerick in a hunters’ chase and he could give another good account of himself back in this race.

Mares’ Novices’ Chase

ELIMAY could close out the Cheltenham Festival by handing JP McManus a winner on the day four racecard and the progressive grey Montmartre mare will bid to add to his chase tally having won his latest start in good fashion at Naas.

Sixth in the 2019 Mares’ Hurdle she won both subsequent outings before going over fences and she immediately showed herself to be a classy chasing prospect with wins at Cork and Thurles in Graded company.

Having had a spin over hurdles at Punchestown in November Willie Mullins’ charge found only Allaho too strong in a Thurles Grade Two contest and latterly ran out a ready winner from Shattered Love when last seen.

She looks sure to progress again and could prove a tough nut to crack in the Festival finale.