McManus's Posse could head them all


RACING:JP McMANUS’S ability to stay ahead of the bookmaker posse is legendary so Head Of The Posse could be an entirely apt winner of today’s €190,000 Paddy Power Chase.

The most powerful National Hunt owner in these islands goes after the most valuable pot of the Irish Christmas period with a vengeance, fielding a huge team of nine that makes up almost a third of the runners in this hugely lucrative handicap.

They include the English trained pair of Aigle D’Or and Alfie Sherrin as well as the Troytown winner Groody Hill, who is the pick of McManus’s number one rider, Tony McCoy. But at big odds it could be worth betting that Head Of The Posse could emerge best of the lot – and maybe even best of the rest too.

Drying ground conditions will be to the advantage of a horse that was trained through the summer for a tilt at the Galway Plate, which ended as early as the fourth fence when Head Of The Posse unseated David Casey.

That was disappointing for a horse capable of being placed in Grade One novice events last season at both Punchestown and Fairyhouse. Head Of The Posse wasn’t seen for quite some time after Galway but reappeared over hurdles recently and ran noticeably well when finding only Mikael D’Haguenet too good.

That was an encouraging effort in the context of a handicap chase test like this and Head Of The Posse’s trainer John Kiely is a notably shrewd placer of his horses.

McManus has a history of relieving Powers of their sponsorship money having scored back-to-back wins with the favourites Keepatem (2004) and World Wide Web (2003.) Keepatem in particular stung the bookies after being backed off the boards on the day.

The big ante-post gamble this year has been On His Own, who will be having his first run for champion trainer Willie Mullins having been switched back to Ireland by owner Graham Wylie.

A bumper winner here on this day two years ago, On His Own is bred to appreciate better ground and the sustained market support for him last week has to be significant.

But while On His Own could be a blot on the handicap, he does look plenty short enough in the betting for such a comparative dark horse. It is also worth bearing in mind that two of the last three Paddy Power winners have come home at 33 to 1.

Head Of The Posse may not end up at quite those odds and it isn’t as if he is at the low end of the handicap. But Casey’s mount has an encouraging profile otherwise and could represent a lucrative each-way option.