The JP McManus-owned Buveur D'Air, with Noel Fehily in the saddle, pictured after winning the Stan James Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in 2017
LEADING Limerick racehorse owner JP McManus once again sends a powerful raiding party to this week’s four-day Cheltenham National Hunt Racing Festival when he will look to add to his tally of 52 wins.
Sixty seven-year-old McManus had his famed green and gold silks carried to success at Prestbury Park for the first time in 1982 and has since become the winning most owner at the Festival.
His tally of 52 wins is a whopping 39 clear of Michael O’Leary’s Giggingstown House Stud.
Last year's winner Buveur D'Air gave McManus one of his three Festival wins at the 2017 festival in the blue riband for hurdlers, the Unibet Champion Hurdle,
Hot favourite Buveur D’Air will look to retain his champion hurdle crown in the stg£469,440 Unibet Champion Hurdle (3.30pm) over an extended two miles, the highlight of tomorrow Tuesday’s opening day at Cheltenham.
Buveur D'Air, trained by Nicky Henderson is, one of three Unibet Champion Hurdle contenders for The Festival's leading owner McManus, is the 8/15 market leader with Unibet as he bids to retain the crown.
Unbeaten in three starts this season, the seven-year-old was the easy winner of the Group 1 Unibet Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle in November and the Group 1 Unibet Christmas Hurdle at Kempton Park on St Stephen’s Day before accounting for John Constable in the Listed Contenders Hurdle at Sandown on February 3.
The McManus-owned Buveur D'Air is bidding to become the first horse since Hurricane Fly (2011 & 2013) to win multiple renewals of the race, while he also bids to emulate Hardy Eustace (2004 & 2005), the last horse to win successive Champion Hurdles.
Henderson and McManus are also represented in the day one feature by three-time Unibet Champion Hurdle runner-up, 11-year-old My Tent Or Yours (10/1), who landed the Group 2 Unibet International Hurdle at Cheltenham in December and last year's Group 1 JCB Triumph Hurdle sixth Charli Parcs.
Irish trainer Willie Mullins also launches a four-pronged assault on tomorrow's Champion Hurdle, with 2015 hero Faugheen joined by stablemates Melon, Wicklow Brave and Yorkhill. Faugheen is fitted with cheek pieces for the first time.
Faugheen's owner, Rich Ricci, told Racing UK's Luck On Sunday: "We're looking for a little edge to give him his spark back.
“He certainly likes Cheltenham and he is, by all accounts, in very good order. He's as good as they can get him to be.
“Cheek pieces for the first time will add something a little different."
Gordon Elliott's Mick Jazz and the Henry de Bromhead-trained Identity Thief complete the Irish challenge.
Dan Skelton's Ch'Tibello, the Evan Williams-trained John Constable and the supplemented Elgin from Alan King's yard complete the line-up.
Meanwhile, Bruree trainer Enda Bolger will be looking to add to his tally of eight Cheltenham Festival wins, the first of which came with Elegant Lord in 1996.
Bolger looks set to be four-handed in the Glenfarclas Chase (Cross Country Chase) of £65,000.00, over three miles and six furlongs on Wednesday, 4.10pm.
Josies Orders, who won the race for Bolger in 2016, is back for another crack and is a 6/1 shot with the bookies’ to claim a second success in the contest.
Bolger is also set to be represented by Auvergnat (8/1), Cantlow (14/1) and My Home Town (40/1).
The South Limerick trainer is set to run On The Fringe in the St James’ Place Foxhunters Chase on Friday, 4.10pm.
On The Fringe is bidding to win the contest for a third time, having reigned supreme in both 2015 and 2016 at Prestbury Park.
Meanwhile, when the dust has settled on the Festival next week, Limerick Racecourse is set to offer National Hunt racing and family fun on both Sunday, March 18 and Monday March 19 next.
Across the action packed weekend of top racing action, there will be seven races National Hunt each day, free family fun entertainment, live music after racing and a variety of great value hospitality packages to enjoy.
The first race on Sunday is off at 2pm to include a number of feature races - The Kerry Group EBF Shannon Spray Mares Novice Hurdle which is a Grade 3 race of €35,500.00.
This race was won last year by Kate Appleby Shoes trained by Willie Mullins and the Charleville Cheese EBF Mares Novice Steeplechase (Grade 2) of €50,000.00 won by Daisy's Gift also trained by Willie Mullins.
Post racing entertainment with live music by Atomic Chicken in the Munster Suite till late.
The Bank Holiday Monday of St Patrick’s weekend is Family Fun Day at the Limerick Racecourse.
There’s a busy schedule of both races and games and activities for the kids lined up at Greenmount Park gets under way from 2.15pm.
There is a card of seven National Hunt races for those who want to taking in the action on the track.
Meanwhile there’s free kids entertainment in the Greenmount Suite in the main stand that includes a large inflatable obstacle course, a monster dart board, face-painting, balloon-modelling, a kids disco and a chance to meet Lucky the Leprechaun and other special characters.
This is a fantastic day out for all the family whether young, old, or somewhere in between with free admission for children under 12 too.