Irish billionaire John Patrick McManus, almost invariably known in horse racing circles as ‘J.P.’, is far and away the most successful owner in the history of the Cheltenham Festival, with 66 winners to his name. Nevertheless, even by his own exalted standards, McManus enjoyed a remarkable Festival in 2020.
On Tuesday, March 10, his 69th birthday, he won the Champion Hurdle with Epatante. The following day, a dramatic success for Champ in the RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase initiated a 1,019/1 four-timer for the famous green and gold hooped colours and, even then, McManus was left to rue the ‘one that got away’; Defi Du Seul was sent off 2/5 favourite for the Queen Mother Champion Chase but, inexplicably, was never travelling and trailed in a well-beaten fourth of five finishers. However, McManus added two more winners to his lifetime total later in the week, making seven in all, which was, once again, more than enough to take home the Leading Owner award.
Back to the Champion Hurdle specifically, though, and it should come as no surprise that McManus is the leading owner in the history of the two-mile hurdling championship, win nine wins in all, dating back to 1998. His first three victories came courtesy of Istabraq – the joint second highest rated hurdler of all time, according to Timeform – who completed a hat-trick in 1998, 1999 and 2000; his other winners to date were Binocular (2010), Jezki (2014), Buveur D’Air (2017 and 2018), Espoir D’Allen (2019) and Epatante (2020).