O'Leary aims for command in owners' war of attrition
Monday 09 April 2012
One of the year's most spirited sporting rivalries may be settled today, though neither participant has ever broken sweat against the other in spikes or with bat, club, racket or ball. The most strenuous activity for a racehorse owner may be signing a cheque or walking to the winner's podium and J P McManus and Michael O'Leary have done plenty of both.
With less than three weeks of the jumping season to go and a wealthy businessman's pride at stake, the pair are running (if only on paper) neck-and-neck for the Irish owners' title. This afternoon at Fairyhouse they will collectively account for a third of the field for their country's richest contest, the Irish Grand National, with 10 entries between them.
McManus, whose top earner Synchronised took last month's Cheltenham Gold Cup, is already assured of a sixth championship in Britain. On his own turf, he has won 15 and had things pretty much, and perhaps boringly, his own way until O'Leary entered the arena and spiced things up. Two years ago, after five successive runner-up spots, the Ryanair boss topped the leaderboard for the first time, lost out narrowly last season and goes into this year's run for home a metaphorical nose behind.
Like McManus, whose famous green, white and gold colours are those of South Liberties GAA club in Limerick, O'Leary adopted sporting silks, maroon and white being the livery of his home county of Westmeath's football side. And both men swiftly acquired a taste for prestige success. McManus's first horse Cill Dara won the 1976 Irish Cesarewitch; O'Leary's first, Tuco, showed much promise before being killed in action at Fairyhouse 10 years ago today and his second was the Gold Cup winner War Of Attrition.
This afternoon, War Of Attrition's young brother Four Commanders (4.50) leads O'Leary's assault on the €250,000 (£206,000) National purse and, although nothing like as good as his celebrated brother, is a classy, progressive young stayer. The perceived best of McManus's quintet is Groody Hill, but a greater danger may be Allee Garde, who fell early in the Cheltenham four-miler in which Four Commanders ran a gallant third.
To take a title, which is decided on earnings, both quality and quantity are desirable and O'Leary is the only one in Ireland remotely able to take the game to McManus. But – happily – to find a champion does not always take limitless resources. The best horse seen at Fairyhouse's Easter meeting may prove to be the hugely exciting novice Flemenstar, who put his rivals, headed by O'Leary's four-timer seeking Rathlin, to the sword good and proper in yesterday's Grade One Power Gold Cup.
The seven-year-old, who cruised in by 11 lengths under Andrew Lynch to take his win streak to five, is one of just 14 horses in the Co Meath stable of extrovert septugenarian trainer Peter Casey. Four years ago, offered at auction by owner Stephen Curran, the gelding could not find a buyer at £6,500. He is now second favourite in some lists for next year's Cheltenham Gold Cup. "I can't believe we've got one this good," said Casey, "but he is, isn't he?"
Synchronised will be heading for Aintree on Saturday, confirmed yesterday as a starter in the Grand National and now a firm 7-1 favourite in most lists to give Tony McCoy, Jonjo O'Neill and McManus their second victory in three years. The best-backed horse over the weekend was the Willie Mullins-trained On His Own, now as short as 10-1 after becoming the choice of Ruby Walsh, who already has two Nationals on his CV.
Chris McGrath's Nap: Periphery (2.25 Yarmouth)
Not the highest-profile inmate of his powerful stable, but his maiden second last year reads extremely well and he still holds the Guineas entry.
Next Best: Mac's Power (3.20 Warwick)
Failed to win last season but consistent in top handicap company, including the narrowest of defeats first time out.
One to watch: King Of Jazz (Michael Bell) finished best of all when third over six furlongs at Doncaster on his first run for his present yard and should be noted when he steps back up to seven.
Where the money's going: Burton Point is now 4-1 from 6s with Paddy Power for Thursday's Betfair Bowl on the first day of the Grand National meeting.
sportLiverpool 5 Norwich City 1: Uruguayan striker has now scored 11 league goals against the club
arts + entsOlivier-nominated actor and singer is set to star in Lloyd Webber's musical about the Profumo affair
filmWith more than 70 per cent of early films lost, archivists are scouring the world to preserve the precious examples that remain
sportThe coach of Chalfont St Peter's under-10s football team was relieved of his duties after he sent an email to parents that said: 'I am only interested in winning'
techA piece of new hi-tech kit aims to get us scribbling again
indybestMake getting out of the wrong side of bed on cold winter mornings a thing of the past with our selection of night-time covers
life + styleClarissa Baldwin is the brains behind the slogan 'A Dog is for Life not just for Christmas'
Latest in Sport
Arsenal v Hull: Arsene Wenger ignores the sceptics and tells Gunners to seize Premier League title chance
Jose Mourinho believes Manchester City, not Arsenal, offer greatest challenge to Chelsea title hopes
Premier League: Arsenal beware - this is the tightest season in 11 years
Manchester United v Everton: Premier League match preview
Arsenal v Hull City: Premier League match preview
- 1 The hardwired difference between male and female brains could explain why men are 'better at map reading'
- 2 Is this the scariest advert ever? Japanese tyre commercial comes with its own disclaimer and health warning
- 3 UK chef creates world's most expensive ready meal - a fish pie costing £314
- 4 Food poverty in UK has reached level of 'public health emergency', warn experts
- 5 I’m sure Kate Moss doesn't care about posing for Playboy. But I do
£50000 - £70000 per annum + London: Harrington Starr: Senior Automation QA Eng...
£35000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits : Harrington Starr: SQL 2008 R2/2012 Deve...
£38000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: Creative Audit Se...
£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Harrington Starr: SQL Developer (TSQL, P...