Apple’s Shakira likely to contest Triumph Hurdle for JP McManus
‘Every Chance’ Yanworth will line up in Stayers Hurdle at Cheltenham next month
Barry Geraghty guiding Apple’s Shakira to victory in the JCB Triumph Trial at Cheltenham in December. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images
The task of fitting the various pieces of JP McManus’s festival team into the upcoming Cheltenham jigsaw is under way with indications that Apple’s Shakira is set to slot into the JCB Triumph Hurdle.
The Nicky Henderson-trained star is a 3-1 favourite for the juvenile championship event on the final day of next month’s festival. She also holds entries for the Supreme Novices Hurdle and the Trull House Mares Novice event.
McManus’s racing manager Frank Berry said on Monday no final decision has been taken on where Apple’s Jade’s unbeaten full-sister will line up but conceded: “I’d be surprised if it isn’t the Triumph. Nicky knows her best so we’ll leave it up him.”
Another McManus star, Yanworth, has even more festival entries – over both hurdles and fences and Berry suggested: “I’d say there’s every chance he’ll run in the Stayers Hurdle. He’s in a handicap over fences too. Whether his jumping is sharp enough for that around Cheltenham I wouldn’t be sure.”
With the red-hot favourite Buveur D’Air set to defend his Unibet Champion Hurdle crown, and both Edwulf and Minella Rocco due to contest the Timico Gold Cup, McManus is one of the main contenders for the leading owner award.
The prize was introduced for the first time in 2017 when the legendary owner lost out to his rival Michael O’Leary by four winners to three. Sponsorship of the leading owner award has switched from Irish Thoroughbred Marketing last year to Netjets.
McManus won the Gold Cup with Synchronised in 2012 and is likely to have at least two starters in steeplechasing’s ‘Blue Riband’ this time.
“Minella Rocco and Edwulf are two definites for the Gold Cup. Anibale Fly is in it too but it’s up in the air at the moment if he’ll run. He had a bad fall the last day [Irish Gold Cup] but is okay again.
“I wouldn’t rule anything out with Coney Island but it’s hard to see where he’s going to go after his run on Saturday [pulled up in the Ascot Chase]).Nothing has shown up with him at the minute. He made a mistake, they went very fast and he wasn’t in his comfort zone,” Berry added.
No decision has been taken on riding arrangements for the Gold Cup. The top amateur Derek O’Connor partnered Edwulf to his shock 33-1 Irish Gold Cup victory and has been on board the horse in three of his last four starts.
McManus is the most successful owner in Champion Hurdle history with half a dozen victories and Buveur D’Air is a general 2-5 shot to make it seven. Last year he joined Jezki (2014,) Binocular (2010) and the legendary Istabraq (1998-99-2000) on the Champion Hurdle roll of honour.
One of McManus’s Cheltenham stalwarts will miss this year’s festival however.
On The Fringe, winner of the Foxhunters in 2015 and 2016, was fourth in the race last year but Berry reported: “He’s not going to make it this time. He’s back in training and maybe he’ll make Punchestown.”
Jer’s Girl is another of McManus’s Grade One stars on track to go to Cheltenham after a midseason break. Her trainer Gavin Cromwell said on Monday: “She’s in the Mares, the Stayers and she’ll probably have an entry in the Coral Cup. She’s in great order.”
Clear Skies will briefly switch the McManus team’s attention to the flat on Saturday as the progressive filly is a leading contender for the Group Three Winter Derby at Lingfield for Aidan O’Brien.
However the focus will be strictly National Hunt at Newcastle on Saturday with the marathon Eider Chase the feature event.
Pat Griffin’s veteran Portrait King won the four mile contest in 2012 and is one of 21 entries left in after the five-day forfeit stage. Other possible Irish interest could come from Adrian Keatley’s Thebarrowman who has yet to win over fences and is a 16-1 shot in some ante-post lists.
Alan King’s Warwick winner Milansbar is among the favourites and the trainer is hopeful Bryony Frost will be able to ride the horse again at Newcastle.
“Four miles and heavy ground should be perfect. The race looks tailor-made for him. He’s been second in the Midlands National so we know he stays the trip perfectly well.
“We hope Bryony will be available as she can take 3lbs off. The season she’s having, she’s on the crest of a wave and her confidence is so high she just keeps rolling on,” King said.
Elsewhere, Davy Russell has four opportunities to reach a century of winners for the season at Clonmel on Tuesday.
Already long odds-on for a third jockeys’ title, Russell reached 99 for the campaign with a double at Navan on Sunday and will be on board Burren Life for Gordon Elliott in the Grade Three Surehaul Novice Hurdle.
Burren Life’s stable companion Monkshood , a course bumper winner, could be the solution to the feature leaving Monbeg Chit Chat as a likely looking candidate for Russell to reach the landmark in a Beginners Chase.
Henry De Bromhead’s runner is a course winner over hurdles and can be forgiven his last run when pulled up. Afterwards he was blowing hard and found to have suffered an over-reach.
The dual point to point winner Tell Me Annie is the oldest in the opening mares maiden hurdle but performed with a lot of credit on her racecourse debut behind Moyheena at Punchestown last month.