McManus to field seven runners in Grand National

Owner J P McManus is set to field seven runners in the Randox Grand National – with connections still to finalise a jockey for only Anibale Fly.

Trained by Tony Martin, whoever is chosen for Anibale Fly could be in for some thrill at Aintree on Saturday, given he has finished fourth and fifth in the race in the past – as well as being placed twice in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

All other jockeys have been finalised, though, with McManus’ racing manager Frank Berry filling in the gaps.

“Mark Walsh will ride Any Second Now, Richie McLernon rides Kimberlite Candy, Derek O’Connor probably rides Ok Corral because he’s won on him a couple of times,” said Berry.

“Rachael (Blackmore) rides Minella Times for Henry (de Bromhead). The Long Mile runs, and Luke Dempsey will ride him. Tom Bellamy is on Canelo for Alan King.

“We haven’t sorted one out for Anibale Fly yet. He hasn’t shown much of late, but Tony is very happy with him, and hopefully he’s going there in good form.”

JP McManus swoops for Douvan’s full-brother

Jonbon, a full-brother to Douvan who burst on the scene last weekend when winning a point-to-point by 15 lengths, was sold for £570,000 to JP McManus at Goffs November P2P Sale on Thursday.

As a result the four-year-old is now the most expensive point-to-pointer ever sold at public auction.

Douvan, still in training with Willie Mullins, has been lightly raced in recent seasons due to injury, but has won 15 of his 19 races – eight of them at Grade One level.

Jonbon was consigned by Ellemarie Holden, who trained him to win at Dromahane on his debut when ridden by Derek O’Connor.

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Holden said earlier this week: “Derek thinks very highly of the horse. If it wasn’t for Covid he would have run last season, so he was ready to go.

“He’s a bit of a looker all right. He’s a nice horse and from the day he landed in the yard everything came so easy to him, he’s very straightforward.”

McManus’ racing manager Frank Berry said no decision had yet been made over who will train Jonbon.

“I’ve been tied up most of the day so I don’t know much about it other than he bought him,” said Berry.

“I haven’t discussed anything with anyone (about where he might go) so at the moment I’ve no idea.”

Willie Mullins with Douvan
Willie Mullins with Douvan (PA)

Mullins himself does not expect to take charge of Jonbon.

He said: “I wouldn’t think we’ll get Jonbon.

“I don’t know who’ll get him, although I would have thought Nicky (Henderson) could get him, being bought in England with VAT and everything – he would be very expensive to bring back here.”

Regarding Douvan, who was last seen in public a year ago when winning the Clonmel Oil Chase, Mullins said: “Douvan is in pre-training at the moment, and I don’t have him back in the yard yet.

“We’ll look at him again before Christmas.”

No plans for McManus to fill Geraghty role

Racing manager Frank Berry has reiterated there are no plans to replace Barry Geraghty as retained rider for owner JP McManus in the UK.

The McManus team will continue to use the best jockeys for their horses which are scattered around a host of top trainers, including Nicky Henderson, Paul Nicholls, Jonjo O’Neill, Philip Hobbs, Alan King and Harry Fry.

In Ireland, Mark Walsh has continued to be retained by McManus since Geraghty retired in July.

“There are no plans at all. Everything is the same as it was. We are carrying on as normal,” said Berry.

The Champion Hurdle will again be Epatante's main objective
The Champion Hurdle will again be Epatante’s main objective (Simon Cooper/PA)

One of the star rides up for grabs this season will be Epatante, whose main aim will be to hang on to her Champion Hurdle crown.

The Nicky Henderson-trained mare was one of five winners for Geraghty at this year’s Cheltenham Festival.

“Nicky is very happy with her. We don’t know at the minute where she will start off. She has a good few options. We’ll see when she’s ready,” said Berry.

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“The Champion Hurdle is definitely the target.”

Buveur D’Air has been off the track since suffering an injury at Newcastle
Buveur D’Air has been off the track since suffering an injury at Newcastle (PA)

Berry reported Buveur D’Air to be well on the road to recovery after being injured when bidding to win the Fighting Fifth Hurdle for the third year running at Newcastle in November.

The nine-year-old underwent surgery following his narrow defeat by Cornerstone Lad after he returned with a splinter of wood in his foot.

“He’s back in Nicky’s and it’s so far, so good,” said Berry.

“It’s taken him a long time to get over the injury, but he’s back being ridden out and we’re just taking it day by day with him.

“He’ll tell us when he’s ready. He’s on the road back and it would be great to see him again.”

McManus has an exciting young hurdler in Saint Roi, who won the highly-competitive County Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

The five-year-old, trained by Willie Mullins, made an impressive return to action when winning a Grade Three contest at Tipperary at the weekend.

Saint Roi is likely to run next in the WKD Hurdle at Down Royal at the end of the month.

“He did it nicely the other day. The conditions of the race suited him well,” said Berry.

“I think Willie is thinking of going to the north with him.”

Easysland has the Cheltenham Festival on his agenda again
Easysland has the Cheltenham Festival on his agenda again (Simon Cooper/PA)

McManus’s champion cross-country performer, Easysland, has the Cheltenham Festival has his main objective again.

He purchased the David Cottin-trained six-year-old after his victory at Cheltenham in December.

“The plan will be to come back for the cross-country,” said Berry.

“He’s very well. They are happy with him. I’m sure if there is a race they will give him a run over there before he comes back to England.

“He’ll stick to the cross-country route. It’s a possibility he could go to Cheltenham before the Festival. There is nothing written in stone.”