To most fans of National Hunt racing, on either side of the Irish Sea, John Patrick ‘J.P.’ McManus requires little introduction. The Limerick-born billionaire – estimated to be worth over €2 billion – is the largest owner in the sport and his racing colours, green and gold hoops, ‘borrowed’ from South Liberties, a Gaelic Athletic Association club in his home county, are a familiar sight to racegoers.
Christened the ‘Sundance Kid’ by one British journalist, McManus enjoys a reputation as a feared, but fearless, gambler. His first winner at the Cheltenham Festival was Mister Donovan, trained by Edward O’Grady, in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle in 1982. In the intervening four decades, he has added a further 52 victories, making him far and away the most successful owner in the history of the Cheltenham Festival.
In terms of the Leading Trainer Award at The Festival, in recent years McManus has had to play second fiddle to Gigginstown House Stud, owned by another Irish billionaire, Michael O’Leary, but remains a ‘force majeure’ at Prestbury Park and elsewhere. Of the four main ‘championship’ races run at the Festival, McManus has won the Champion Hurdle seven times, with Istabraq (1998, 1999 and 2000), Binocular (2010), Jezki (2014) and Buveir D’Air (2017 and 2018), the Stayers’ Hurdle three times, with Baracouda (2002 and 2003) and More Of That (2014), and the Cheltenham Gold Cup, with Syncronised (2012).
Away from Cheltenham, McManus also won the Grand National in 2010 with Don’t Push It, who famously provided Sir A.P. McCoy with his one and only winner of the celebrated steeplechase at the fifteenth attempt. Down the years, McManus has won over a hundred Grade 1 races, including the Hennessy Gold Cup at Punchestown, the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown, the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton, the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle and Aintree Hurdle, to name but a select handful.