McManus has busy weekend
Owner JP McManus is long odds on favourite to be the leading owner at the Cheltenham Festival next month with bookmakers Paddy Power making the Limerick native as short as 1/4 to have more winners than anyone else over the four days.
It has been an attritional few weeks for Rich Ricci and while Gigginstown have a strong team, they wouldn't have the same quantity as McManus.
This weekend is set to be a big one for McManus. Jezki is due to run in the Red Mills Hurdle and that should guide as to where he will line up next month. Mark Walsh takes the ride on the former Champion Hurdle winner with JP's retained rider Barry Geraghty going to Wincanton to partner another Champion Hurdle entry, Yanworth.
Connections had toyed with the idea of stepping Yanworth up in trip but Alan King's charge looks firmly set on the two-mile division now and he is now the clear second favourite for the opening day feature behind, another McManus-owned horse, Buveur D'air.
As well as Jezki and Yanworth both lining up today, McManus will also be keeping a close eye on Navan tomorrow as his Sutton Place will bid to continue on the winning trail in the Boyne Hurdle.
Unlike the aforementioned trio, last month's Naas winner Sutton Place doesn't currently hold an entry for the Cheltenham Festival.
Both the Champion Hurdle and the Stayers Hurdle were closed for entries when Sutton Place made a very impressive return to action after a lay-off but the option of supplementing the six-year-old should he be able to concede weight and dismiss his rivals in the Grade Two tomorrow afternoon.
"We were delighted with the way he won at Naas the last day, especially after not running for so long and I've been happy with him since," Elliott told the Herald.
"This is another step up and we'll see how he gets on before we make any plans for the future but he's a nice horse."
Jezki saw off the Willie Mullins-trained Renneti on his reappearance and Sutton Place will have to account for him this time but should be capable of doing so.
Navan will also stage two graded novice chases tomorrow and again, McManus holds a strong hand in both of these.
Anibale Fly is a likely favourite in the Ten Up Novice Chase having also won at Naas last time when putting his Kempton disappointment behind him and Joseph O'Brien has also declared Edwulf for the race, with Derek O'Connor an interesting booking which would suggest that O'Connor is going to ride him in the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham next month, for which he is a 16/1 shot.
In the Flyingbolt Novice Chase the McManus-owned Ballyoisin will take on Identity Thief in an important trial for the latter.
Identity Thief brought a massive reputation to the novice chase ranks this season having been a Grade One-winning hurdler but he pulled up at an early stage against Min over Christmas and then got no further than the first fence in the Irish Arkle so trainer Henry de Bromhead will be hoping for a clear round if he is to book his place in the Arkle next month.
Ballyoisin opened his account over fences nicely at Fairyhouse but if Identity Thief does jump around, this would represent a massive step up in class for Enda Bolger's charge as he also has the Leopardstown Chase winner, Ball D'Arc to contend with. Like Sutton Place, Ballyoisin doesn't hold a Cheltenham entry though and some of the other spring festival's are likely to be top of his agenda.
Racegoers to Navan tomorrow should also pay close attention to the concluding bumper where Elliott will give a racecourse debut to the Gigginstown-ownd Poli Roi.
An impressive point-to-point winner in November, Poli Roi was sold to Gordon Elliott for £300,000 after winning for trainer Denis Murphy and Jamie Codd retains the ride on the five-year-old who would appear to have a very bright future.