Top 5 Cheltenham Owners: Leading Performers
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The Cheltenham Festival is just around the corner and once more connections in the world of National Hunt racing are getting excited about ‘the greatest show on turf’ taking place in the Cotswolds amphitheatre that is Prestbury Park.
It’s the biggest week in the year for trainers and jockeys, of course, but also for owners desperate to see their charges entering that famous winners’ enclosure.
Here we look at some of the contenders to be amongst Cheltenham’s leading owners in 2021.
The green and gold hoops of owner JP McManus are perhaps the best-known colours in jumps racing. The Irish businessman has a depth of equine talent in his name richer than anyone – spread far and wide across Britain and Ireland. McManus has horses with all the hope yards on both sides of the Irish Sea, but also takes pride in sending his stock to perceived ‘smaller yards’ too.
He saw his colours win seven races at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival, including the mare Epatante landing the Champion Hurdle. With four wins on a single day at last year’s Festival, McManus was well clear of his rivals and if depth of numbers are the barometer you are after, nobody can match JP.
Cheveley Park Stud
For a generation, Cheveley Park Stud has been synonymous with Flat racing in Britain, the breeding operation responsible for an array of stars on the level. David Thompson, joint-owner of Cheveley Park Stud, died aged 84 in early 2021, but not before overseeing a move back into the jumps arena in the last two years.
Envoi Allen won the Champion Bumper at this meeting in 2019 and it was the signal for a marked increase in Cheveley Park Stud’s jumps stock. The Gordon Elliott-trained runner returned last March to win the Ballymore and is now amongst the most exciting novice chasers headed for The Festival this year as he remains unbeaten.
He’s trained by Gordon Elliott, but there’s also Allaho (Willie Mullins) and former Festival winner A Plus Tard (Henry De Bromhead) amongst a growing team of jumps stars in both Ireland and Britain racing with the unmistakeable white sash across the red body.
Mrs J Donnelly
Melon was the first Donnelly horse to spring to attention at the Cheltenham Festival but, as it turns out, that was indeed just for starters.
The likeable Melon has been second in all four Festival starts since 2017 (a Supreme, two Champion Hurdles and last season’s splendid Marsh Novices’ Chase) and he continues to thrive this season.
No mistaking though that Al Boum Photo is the pin-up boy for this owner now. He finally ended Willie Mullins’ quest to win the Gold Cup in 2019 and he retained he prize a year later. History awaits in his hat-trick bid.
Shiskin is a shoe-in for many in the Arkle after his impressive trio of chase successes as the Donnelly black and yellow squares become an increasing Cheltenham presence.
Mrs S Ricci
The pink and green of Rich and Susannah Ricci are long-established as Festival favourites thanks to the likes of Vautour, Faugheen, Annie Power and Benie Des Dieux in years gone by. The last-named could be a massive contender in the new Mares’ Chase on the Friday, while the Ricci’s have also diversified their patronage lately, as evidenced with the emergence of would-be Gold Cup contender Royale Pagaille for Venetia Williams.
As always, Willie Mullins remains the commander-in-chief for Team Ricci and they’ll be keeping fingers crossed Chacun Pour Soi can finally make it to the Cotswolds track and do his thing in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.
Mr Simon Munir/Mr Isaac Souede
The two-tone green silks of Simon Munir and Isaac Suede are a strong presence in UK and Irish jumps racing, typically associated with well-sourced French imports sent to an array of trainers including Nicky Henderson and Willie Mullins.
They saw Concertista take out the Mares Novices’ Hurdle last March and her form this season ensures she’s considered a big player for graduation honours in the Mares’ Hurdle on the opening day of Cheltenham 2021.
The double-green has also been carried to Arkle glory by Footpad in the past while the beacon of consistency that is Bristol De Mai has placed in and is a regular Gold Cup competitor. With the owners continued investment in racing stock, there are sure to be new player looming in the Munir/Suede colours.