J.P. McManus

J.P. McManus  The green and gold silks of John Patrick “J.P.” McManus are familiar throughout the world of National Hunt racing, on both sides of the Irish Sea, but perhaps nowhere more so than the Cheltenham Festival, where they’ve been carried to victory no fewer than 53 times. McManus, who has a net worth of €2.1 billion, is reputed to have collected £250,000 in a single bet when Mister Donovan won what is now the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle in 1982, and hasn’t looked back since.

The Limerick-born Irishman has won the Champion Hurdle seven times, with Istabraq three times, in 1998, 1999 and 2000, Binocular in 2010, Jezki in 2014 and Buveur D’Air twice, in 2017 and 2018, the Stayers’ Hurdle three times, with Baracouda twice, in 2002 and 2003 and More Of That in 2014, and the Cheltenham Gold Cup with Synchronised in 2012.

McManus is far and away the leading owner at the Cheltenham Festival, some 29 winners ahead of his nearest pursuer, Gigginstown House Stud, although, with 17 winners at the Festival since 2014, Michael O’Leary’s operation has made substantial inroads into his lead in recent years. But, as McManus himself put it, “Racing is a great leveller. The day you think you have mastered the game, you will be made to pay for it the following day.” Nevertheless, with a string of horses in training in Ireland and the United Kingdom, McManus is likely to continue his love affair with the Cheltenham Festival for a good while yet.

Simon Munir and Isaac Souede

Simon Munir and Isaac Souede  Compared with the likes of J.P. McManus, Gigginstown House Stud and Rich Ricci, financiers Simon Munir and Isaac Souede are ‘small fry’ in terms of Cheltenham Festival winners, with just four victories between them. Simon Munir has owned with Nicky Henderson for several years, winning the Triumph Hurdle with Soldatino in 2010 and the Fred Winter Juvenile with Une Artiste in 2012. However, since joining forces with Frenchman Isaac Souede, the partnership has continued to grow, in terms of numbers and quality, and now has horses in training in Great Britain, Ireland and France.

On this side of the English Channel, Munir and Souede have a decent variety of horses dispersed among Nicky Henderson, Nigel Twiston Davies, Alan King, David Pipe and, most recently, Ben Pauling in Britain and Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliot in Ireland. They won the Triumph Hurdle with Peace And Co, trained by Nicky Henderson, in 2015 and the Arkle Challenge Trophy with Footpad, trained by Willie Mullins, in 2018.

The latter, who remains unbeaten over fences, including four Grade 1 wins, has yet to win beyond 2 miles 3½ furlongs but, even so, looks a potential Cheltenham Gold Cup winner in the making. Two of their other Cheltenham possibilities, Top Notch – who was only beaten a length by Yorkhill in the JLT Novices’ Chase in 2017 – and We Have A Dream, missed the Festival in 2018, but won their respective races at Sandown and Aintree, respectively, the following month and remain bright prospects for the future.

Munir and Souede may not be competing for the Leading Owner Award at the Cheltenham Festival any time soon, but their continued investment in up-and-coming young horses, not to mention their recruitment of Daryl Jacob as their retained jockey, must surely pay dividends at some point.

Rich Ricci

Rich Ricci  American-born Rich Ricci – whose horses officially run in the pink and green colours of his wife, Susannah – has risen to prominence as one of the most successful National Hunt owners in Britain and Ireland in recent years. A colourful, yet enigmatic, character, Ricci is former Barclays investment banker, worth an estimated £100 million, but his “Keep Buyin’ and Keep Tryin’” philosophy has certainly paid dividends at the Cheltenham Festival. Ricci has struck up a formidable partnership with the dominant force in Irish National Hunt racing, Willie Mullins, with whom he has enjoyed 15 successes at the Gloucestershire track.

The first of them, Mikael D’Haguenet, won the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle in 2009 and, since 2012, Ricci has had at least one winner at every Cheltenham Festival. Champagne Fever proved to be a standard bearer for three Festivals running, winning the Weatherbys Champion Bumper in 2012 and the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2013 before being headed in the last stride in the Arkle Challenge Trophy in 2014.

Ricci has also be fortunate, or shrewd, enough to own several more multiple winners at the Cheltenham Festival. The ill-fated Vautour, for example, won the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2014, the JLT Novices’ Chase in 2015 and the Ryanair Chase in 2016, before breaking his leg in a freak accident at home later the same year. Faugheen, who won the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle in 2014, completed a notable double in the Champion Hurdle in 2015, while Douvan, the winner of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle that year, made equally short work of subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, Sizing John, in the Arkle Challenge Trophy on his return to Prestbury Park in 2016.

In recent years, the Ricci string has been less powerful than previously but, even so, victories for Let’s Dance in the Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle in 2017 and Benie Des Dieux in 2018 have kept the ball rolling.