Tuesday 25 October 2016

Niall Cronin: Difficult role to fill but McManus was spoiled for choice

Trainer Nicky Henderson with jockey Barry Geraghty
Trainer Nicky Henderson with jockey Barry Geraghty

For a long time speculation had been rife over who would be chosen by JP McManus to wear his famous green and gold silks as retained jockey to replace the legendary AP McCoy.

Barry Geraghty was always close to favourite, Mark Walsh would have been an obvious choice, money apparently came in for Davy Russell at one stage and Noel Fehily was seemingly popular in the betting too, although I'd love to really see how much that book took in, and Paul Townend was another who could have filled the role well.

After the Punchestown Festival and as the Flat season got into top gear, the speculation sort of died down and it was no longer a story on a weekly basis, although Frank Berry, JP McManus' racing manager, was asked on occasion for an update - of which there was none.

This week that all changed, though, when, on Monday night, Berry confirmed the news that Geraghty was to be the new number one.

While it wasn't a major surprise that Geraghty got the job, it was no surprise either that JP McManus was spoilt for choice.

Just look at who didn't get it for a second. Mark Walsh was nearly champion jockey in Ireland last year and proved on many occasions that he is up to holding such a position while still in his twenties. You'd imagine he might be tailor-made for the job when it next comes up for grabs.

Paul Townend is a former champion jockey who anyone would love to have riding for them, hence the reason he has been Ruby Walsh's number two at the most powerful jump stable this country has ever seen ever since he was 18.

Grand National winning jockey Niall Madden has taken his opportunities well in recent months and Davy Russell knows all about holding a massive job like this.

But Noel Fehily was an interesting name to be thrown into the mix. If what JP McManus was looking for was somebody to take over the exact same job as McCoy had, he'd probably have been a very good choice as he is based in England and knows the tracks over there inside out and has no problem with the big occasions.

However, it does appear that this is a slightly different role and that Geraghty won't be required to ride some of the lesser rated McManus horses that McCoy would have partnered at some of the lesser meetings in the UK in his drive to be champion jockey.

Geraghty has already said that his main reason for taking the job is that he will have more time to spend at home with his young family, but the prospect of having horses to ride in so many of the top races on both sides of the Irish Sea for such a major player in the game was surely impossible to turn down. The pair will undoubtedly make a very lethal combination.

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