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JP McManus out to plunder Festival Handicap Chase

Leading owner and legendary gambler JP McManus has an excellent record in the Festival Handicap Chase and has a strong looking team to go to war with in this year’s renewal.

McManus has won the race three times in the last 11 years, most recently with Alfie Sherrin who landed a huge overnight gamble in 2012.

The 11-year-old is among seven McManus entries for the 2014 running of the 3m 110y contest, with the others being Cantlow, Cause Of Causes, Dursey Sound, Pendra, Shutthefrontdoor and Tap Night.

Cases can be made to give each a big chance, so a close look at the stats is interesting in trying to establish the possible leading contenders.

The first key stat to consider is that no horse rated 143 or above has won the race since Unguided Missile in 1998.

That is a big negative as far as Tap Night (rated 145), Cantlow (151) and Shutthefrontdoor (146) are concerned.

Horses aged 11+ are 0-44 to even place in the race since 1997, so the 11-year-old Alfie Sherrin (rated 134) has a major negative to overcome if he is to win the race for a second time.

That leaves two remaining stats to consider regarding the chances of Cause Of Causes, Dursey Sound, and Pendra who all meet the opening criteria in terms of age and rating.

The first is that novices have won four of the last 10 runnings, and all three tick that box.

The other is the excellent record in the race of trainer Jonjo O’Neill.

The Jackdaws Castle handler has provided McManus with two winners in the contest, Alfie Sherrin and Witchita Lineman (2009) and has also saddled two runners-up in the race since 2002.

That makes Dursey Sound look a very interesting contender given his positive profile, and he is currently a 20/1 chance with Coral.

Of the other McManus entries, Shutthefrontdoor is the current joint market leader with Coral at 12/1, Alfie Sherrin is 14/1, Cantlow and Pendra are both 20/1, and Tap Night can be backed at 25/1.