Cheltenham Festival: Makounji is the one with sex appeal

IF ANYONE doubts the power of words, consider this. Just two words, and fairly small ones at that, could unleash mayhem in the betting ring at Cheltenham today. Bookies will start doing frantic sums, the tic-tacs' arms will wave like windmills in a typhoon, and punters will reach deep into their pockets for thick wedges of cash. The man doing the talking will be JP McManus, but the great unknown is whether the words will be "Joe Mac" or "Cardinal Hill".

Both horses will go to post for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle in McManus's green and gold colours, and it is unlikely that he will find it any easier than the rest of us to resist a bet in the first race of the Festival. His choice should be obvious within seconds, as one horse charges clear at the front of the market while the other starts to canter in the opposite direction. Many punters will not think twice before sending the money scurrying after JP's.

Success for either could be the first step on the road to hell for the bookmakers. Winnings would be played up on Istabraq, the odds-on favourite for the Champion Hurdle, and above all Florida Pearl, Ireland's great hope for the Gold Cup on Thursday. But it is also worth recalling that even JP McManus does not get it right every time. At the last meeting at Cheltenham, he left pounds 140,000 behind with just one bookmaker after three successive bets failed to oblige.

And while both Joe Mac and Cardinal Hill have been laid out for the race, and probably have a great deal of improvement to come, their odds already reflect the McManus Factor and make little appeal. Joe Mac looked sure to win the Bumper here last year with a furlong to run, but could not get past Alexander Banquet up this hill, which is not what you look for in a second-favourite, while Cardinal Hill's jumping was far from fluent when he was second to the same horse last time out.

Of course, there is no shortage of alternatives. Martin Pipe's Hors La Loi III and his stablemate Auetaler both have good chances on form, although if the latter is anything like his owners, Robbie Fowler and Steve McManaman, he will finish in mid-division.

The best bet, though, is surely The Fly (2.00), who is by some way the most accomplished horse in the race. Third in the 1997 St Leger, he also finished fifth in the Derby, and although he comes to Cheltenham after just one run over hurdles, he has come through many tough battles on the Flat.

"The plan was to give him two runs before the Festival," Barry Hills, The Fly's trainer, said yesterday, "but we've had one of the exceptional wet years of all time, so we've had to make the best of what we've got. He's schooled every week since he ran, and jumped 48 hurdles in practice. He's made the odd mistake, but they've got to make the odd mistake to learn, like everyone else in life."

Hills has not had a runner at Cheltenham since Nomadic Way won the Stayers' Hurdle in 1992. "I'm looking forward to it, it'll do the adrenalin good," he said. "I don't know much about the Irish horses, but we're running a horse with a lot of class who jumps well and will travel well through the race. He's got a very good chance."

His Song will be another Irish favourite in the Arkle Trophy, but he too failed to quicken up the hill here last year. With the ground drying out, he may be beaten for speed by MAKOUNJI (nap 2.35), who gets weight and sex allowances and has more than enough talent to exploit them. Keep some money aside too for Eulogy (next best 3.55), who has slipped into the handicap chase with a very fair weight, and Papo Kharisma (5.05). The latter appears wildly overpriced at 20-1 on his form behind Lady Rebecca last time out.

More racing, page 23

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
video
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Amis: Taken to task over rash decisions and ill-judged statements
booksThe Zone of Interest just doesn't work, says James Runcie
Life and Style
life – it's not, says Rachel McKinnon
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Travel
travelFrom Notting Hill Carnival to Zombeavers at FrightFest
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £45000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Key featuresA highly motivated ...

Service Delivery and Support Manager

£55000 - £75000 per annum + excellent benefits: Harrington Starr: Service Deli...

Corporate Tax Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - HIGHEST QUALITY INTERNATIONAL ...

Relationship Manager

£500 - £600 per day: Orgtel: Relationship Manager, London, Banking, Accountant...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home