Large wad for McManus horse

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The Independent Online

A different McManus yesterday instilled fear into bookmakers who drastically cut Lucky Town's odds for the Grand National. The Irish-trained nine-year-old is owned by Noreen McManus, wife of the renowned ''J P''.

William Hill cut Lucky Town's price from 40-1 to 25-1 after a man - described as a ''familiar face'' - walked into one of the firm's north London's shops and placed a large wad of £50 notes on the counter. A Hill's spokesman said yesterday that the customer will collect £250,000 if the horse wins a week on Saturday. The Tote cut the same horse's odds to 25-1 from 33-1.

Ignorant of all this fuss, Lucky Town himself was last night blissfully munching hay at his stables at Howardstown House, Bruree, Co Limerick.

Enda Bolger, his trainer, was upbeat about his National prospects. ''I think he'll enjoy Aintree. He's a very sure-footed horse; he's been on the floor only once in his chasing career. We want good going for him,'' the trainer said.

Lucky Town is versatile, having shown speed to be placed twice in the Galway Plate and stamina to be runner-up in a Kerry National. His latest run in Britain was a close third to Linden's Lotto and Linton Rocks (giving 3lb to both) in the 3m7f cross-country chase at Cheltenham in November.

''The four and a miles of the Grand National are unknown territory but I believe he will stay the distance. David Casey will ride him,'' Bolger added.

Philip Hobbs is hoping to be double-handed in the Aintree spectacular. He could be represented by Stormy Passage and Village King, although the former would not run if heavy rain arrives.

The dual National-winning trainer Toby Balding confirmed that Kendal Cavalier will line up. The gelding finished seventh behind Bobbyjo at Aintree last year. Balding said: "He's a definite runner, he'll be ridden by Barry Fenton and he's in very good order. What he doesn't want is firm ground.''