J P McManus, whose name will always be associated with the triple Champion Hurdle hero and legend Istabraq, should be back in the Cheltenham limelight again on Saturday with Youlneverwalkalone in the £100,000 Tripleprint Gold Cup.
The biggest owner of jumpers in Ireland saw his strongly fancied Darapour brought down at Cheltenham on Friday. But it could be a very different story with Youlneverwalkalone, who got his jumping together for a recent win at Thurles.
That success will have done his confidence lots of good and Youlneverwalkaloneis on a very handy mark with 10st 1lb.
The Martin Pipe-A P McCoy machine is represented by Cyfor Malta, last month’s Thomas Pink Gold Cup winner, while Paul Nicholls’s talented Fadalko, partnered by the commuting Irishman Ruby Walsh, will take some beating if in top form.
Walsh also teams up with Hors La Loi 111, who returns to action for the first time since his great Champion Hurdle triumph last March in the Victor Chandler Bula Hurdle. Hors La Loi 111 was partnered to Champion glory by Dean Gallagher, who has since been banned for 18 months for drug-related offences.
American challenger Al Skywalker arrived in England at the beginning of the week but is difficult to assess.
Rooster Booster currently heads the Champion Hurdle betting on the strength of his recent victory over the course, while Marble Arch, second in last season’s championship, will be ridden by A P McCoy.
The Pipe-McCoy combination looks set to carry off the first three races, courtesy of Classified, Golden Alpha and Don Fernando, who is already favourite for the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham in March.
Ad Hoc, among the market leaders for the Grand National, should continue his Aintree preparation in a winning vein by taking the last, the Tripleprint Novices’ Hurdle.