2016 Cheltenham Festival: McManus shows strength in depth in handicaps entries
David Metcalf | February 25, 2016
McManus has strong hand in bid to plunder big handicaps
A total of 965 entries have been unveiled for the 10 handicaps staged at the 2016 Cheltenham Festival, and leading Irish owner JP McManus has some of the leading contenders.
McManus is feared by the bookies for his huge bets, and his famous green and gold hooped colours have landed some of the biggest punts ever seen around Prestbury Park.
His Minella Foru had been at the head of market for Coral’s Ultima Handicap Chase (107 entries over 3m 1f at 14:50 GMT) on Tuesday, March 15th, but was a surprise absentee among 107 entries for the Grade 3 contest.
Two of the past three winners – 2014 scorer Holywell (14/1) and 2013 victor Golden Chieftain (33/1) – are among the entries.
There are 68 entries for the 2m 4f Listed Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase (2m 4½f at 17:30), including last year’s Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle second Bouvreuil (14/1). Noble Endeavour is the 8/1 favourite.
Coral Cup attracts strong and classy entry
A hugely competitive-looking Coral Cup takes place on Ladies Day, Wednesday, March 16th (155 entries over 2m 5f at 14:50), along with the aforementioned Fred Winter (50 entries over 2m at 16:50).
Diamond King, trained in Ireland by Gordon Elliott, is 12/1 favoruite with the sponsors for the Coral Cup. Politologue is next best in at 14/1.
Elliott is also responsible for the current favourite in the Fred Winter, the McManus-owned Campeador, who has been heavily backed into 8/1.
Three handicaps take place on St Patrick’s Thursday, March 17th, the listed Pertemps Network Final (55 entries over 3m at 14:10), the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate (103 entries over 2m 5f at 16:10), and the concluding Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup (108 entries for amateur riders over 3m 2f at 17:30).
Game on for Cup Final in Pertemps Final
Trainer Nicky Henderson enjoyed his first success in the Pertemps Final last year with Call The Cops and is responsible this year for leading contender Cup Final, owned by McManus and 8/1 co-favourite with Coral.
Taquin Du Seuil landed the JLT Novices’ Chase at the Festival in 2014 and won at Warwick earlier this month, propelling him to the head of the market for the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate (14/1 jount-favourite).
The David Pipe trained Doctor Harper is an exciting novice and he currently heads the market at 8/1 with Coral for the Kim Muir Challenge Cup – a race his stable won last year with The Package.
Connections hoping for dream success with Henry Higgins
There would be no more appropriate winner of the Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle on Friday, March 18th (96 entries over 2m 1f at 14:10), than Henry Higgins who is trained by Charles O’Brien, son of the legendary trainer who the race is run in honour of.
Henry Higgins, who is also owned by McManus, is a 16/1 shot in this market, headed by fellow Irish raider Blue Hell and Desoto County on 10/1.
Also taking place on Gold Cup Day is the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle (158 entries over 2m 4f at 16:50). David Pipe has five entries in the race run in honour of his father.
The Cheltenham Festival and betting draws to a close with the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase (65 entries over 2m at 17:30). This race commemorates Nicky Henderson’s late father Johnny and the most successful trainer of all-time at The Festival has one entry with Lough Kent (20/1)
Weights for all handicaps will be revealed at Cheltenham Racecourse on Wednesday, March 2nd. Stay tuned to Coral for more on all handicap racing relating to the Prestbury Park showpiece.
Be sure to visit Coral’s Cheltenham page for all the latest news and tips in the build-up and during the Festival.