Aidan Coleman: in pole position for the JP McManus gig?
PICTURE:Martin Lynch (racingpost.com/photos)
By Andrew King 3:35PM 27 FEB 2017
WITH Barry Geraghty sidelined with cracked ribs and a punctured lung, one of the most eagerly coveted riding positions in the sport – that of main rider for JP McManus – has a surprise vacancy rolling into the Cheltenham Festival.
McManus, 2-7 favourite to emerge as top owner at the festival, has a host of fancied contenders including Stayers’ Hurdle favourite Unowhatimeanharry, short-priced Champion Hurdle duo Buveur D’Air and Yanworth, and Triumph Hurdle market leader Defi Du Seuil.
He has his pick of just about any rider in the weighing room, but these four jockeys, all of whom have played roles in his season to date, are likely to head his shortlist.
One of the sport’s top jockeys and second in the riders’ championship last season – he sits fourth this campaign – Coleman has fitted in neatly with riding plans in Britain for JP McManus, particularly with horses trained by Jonjo O’Neill when Geraghty has not made the trip from Ireland. He seems certain to be called upon.
Rides for JP McManus this season: 84
Wins for JP McManus this season: 20
Total Cheltenham Festival wins: 1
He could prove the surprise package for McManus, especially given his association with Stayers’ Hurdle favourite Unowhatimeanharry, on whom he was unbeaten in four runs last term. Fehily is regarded by many as the go-to jockey for the big occasion.
Rides for McManus this season: 9
Wins for McManus this season: 2
Total Cheltenham Festival wins: 3
Richard Johnson: the champion jockey has experience on his side
McManus-owned horses played a role in Johnson becoming champion jockey for the first time last season after having to settle for the runner-up spot behind McCoy for so many years. He undoubtedly has the respect of the owner and is another who must be on the shortlist. With 20 festival wins under his belt Johnson trails only Ruby Walsh and Barry Geraghty among active jockeys for success at the meeting, so is the obvious option if experience is called for.
Rides for McManus this season: 35
Wins for McManus this season: 6
Total Cheltenham Festival wins: 20
Often viewed in the shadow of McCoy and now Geraghty, Walsh is not a regular visitor to Britain but has been held in high regard in the McManus camp for many years and is considered rock-steady when it comes to riding the owner’s lesser lights.
Rides for McManus this season: 274
Wins for McManus this season: 49
Total Cheltenham Festival wins: 0