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JP McManus runners attracting cash in Cheltenham handicaps

Punters have been burning the midnight oil to study the weights for the Cheltenham festival handicaps. Among the horses attracting support are a trio of handicappers set to represent leading Irish owner JP McManus.

Trainer Charlie Longsdon put in a good word for Pendra yesterday in the Novices Handicap Chase that closes the opening day. The six-year-old won his first two races over fences but ran disappointingly at Ascot in December.

Longsdon felt that the Coral Cup came too soon when he was a disappointing favourite last year but is expecting a much better this time. He is set to race off 11st 7lb and has been cut to 10-1 following the encouraging words from his trainer.

Another McManus horse in demand is the Philip Hobbs-trained If In Doubt in the Pertemps Handicap Hurdle Final. He is only 1lb better off with stable companion Fingal Bay after being beaten by half a length at Exeter recently.

He had previously been well backed in the Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton but found Saphir Du Rheu too good for him and went down by six lengths. He appears to have been laid out for this race with no other entries at the festival and is now joint favourite at 8-1 with Fingal Bay.

Novice chaser Cause Of Causes was just touched off in the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas. The former Ladbroke Hurdle winner holds seven entries at the festival including the Byrne Group Plate in which he has an eye-catching 10st 4lb.

Second to Sraid Padraig over two miles at Fairyhouse in November, he was only a short head behind Rockyaboya last time but has gone up 11lbs without winning. His new mark of 140 is still 7lbs lower than his rating over hurdles and acts on any ground.

McManus has yet another leading contender for the festival in Regal Encore who is currently favourite for both the County Hurdle and the Martin Pipe Hurdle. As things stand, he is unlikely to get a run in either race unless he can pick up a penalty by winning the Imperial Cup at Sandown.