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McManus duo primed for Champion Chase challenge

McManus duo primed for Champion Chase challenge
McManus duo primed for Champion Chase challenge

Dinoblue and Gentleman De Mee give JP McManus a formidable hand in his bid for yet another big-race victory in the William Hill Champion Chase at Punchestown on Tuesday.

It has already been quite the year for the leading owner, with five winners at the Cheltenham Festival followed by a treble at Aintree, including the Grand National success of I Am Maximus.

Jonbon’s victory in Saturday’s Celebration Chase at Sandown put the seal on a British campaign which saw McManus crowned champion owner for the eighth successive season and the 73-year-old will be hoping to keep the ball rolling back on home soil this week.

His two runners in the feature event on day one of the Punchestown Festival both had to make do with the runner-up spot at Cheltenham in March, with Dinoblue narrowly denied by fellow McManus-owned runner Limerick Lace in the Mares’ Chase and Gentleman De Mee second best in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

Gentleman De Mee is a second major contender for owner JP McManus
Gentleman De Mee is a second major contender for owner JP McManus (Lorraine O’Sullivan/PA)

The owner’s retained rider Mark Walsh has sided with Dinoblue on her return to an extended two miles, leaving National-winning jockey Paul Townend to partner Gentleman De Mee.

“Dinoblue is versatile trip-wise, I think – I don’t think the trip beat her at Cheltenham,” said McManus’ racing manager Frank Berry.

“I think she’s come out of the race quite well, it’s competitive but she never runs a bad race and is very dependable.

“Gentleman De Mee is in good form and the better the ground, the better he’ll like it. We’re happy with him and it will be an interesting race.”

Dinoblue and Gentleman De Mee are two of four runners for Willie Mullins, who also saddles Saint Sam and Dysart Dynamo in a race he has won in each of the past five renewals.

The biggest threat to the Closutton quartet appears to be Henry de Bromhead’s Captain Guinness, who enjoyed an overdue day in the sun when triumphant in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham.

De Bromhead, who also runs outsider Maskada, said: “We’re delighted with Captain Guinness. We always felt he deserved to win a Grade One and the fact it was the Champion Chase was an added bonus.

“Maskada is being covered, so I’d say it’s her last run. So, we’ll give it a go and see if she can get some Grade One black type.”

Joseph O’Brien fits star chaser Banbridge with cheek pieces as he drops back in trip, with the field completed by Gordon Elliott’s pair of Ash Tree Meadow and Fil Dor.

Of the latter, Elliott said: “He ran creditably at Cheltenham and Fairyhouse, both times maybe shaping a little better than the bare result and maybe looking like a horse that might appreciate coming back to this trip.”

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