Tuesday 20 February 2018

Irish business tycoons poised to land spoils at Cheltenham

The sheer size of Michael O'Leary's vast horse-racing empire will come as a shock, writes Nick Webb

THE sheer scale of Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary's horse racing empire is being revealed in the run up to the Cheltenham Festival. But O'Leary isn't the only well-known Irish businessman with a live contender for the week ahead.

O'Leary's Gigginstown Stud is among those with the most horses entered over the four- day festival, which kicks off this week. The Ryanair boss has already plundered major silverware at Cheltenham with his brilliant War of Attrition landing the Gold Cup in 2006. Another horse, Weapon's Amnesty, won the Novices Hurdle in 2009, following it up with a victory in the RSA Chase at last year's Cheltenham March festival.

O'Leary has 37 entries in races across the four-day festival -- though some of his horses are entered in more than one race. Others may be withdrawn closer to the off.

The bookies fancy O'Leary to do a fair bit of damage. His First Lieutenant is a short 8/1 for the Neptune Novices Hurdle on Wednesday. The horse is also entered in the Albert Bartlett. Sir Des Champs is the 7/1 favourite for the Martin Pip Conditional Jockeys Hurdle on Friday.

He's got two in the RSA Chase -- both 20/1 shots. The aviation boss runs three in the Coral Cup, with Sir Des Champs the most-fancied runner. Rivage D'Or is a 14/1 shot for the Pertemps Final, with Tharawat well-backed for the Festival Plate. Beautiful Sound is one of the favourites for the Kim Muir, at 10/1.

Apart from JP McManus, who as usual has a stack of entries, one of O'Leary's biggest rivals for silverware is Icon's Ronan Lambe. The pharma tycoon has a number of well-fancied entries. However, Lambe's biggest success came on the flat at Royal Ascot, when his Rite of Passage won the valuable Gold Cup last summer.

Lambe's Hidden Universe, trained by Dermot Weld, has been well backed for the Supreme Novices -- the opening race of the festival. His Endless Intrigue is an outsider for the Albert Bartlett next Friday.

Property developer Michael O'Flynn has seen his China Rock well backed for the Gold Cup on Friday. The odds have dropped from 50/1 down to 33/1 in the last week. O'Flynn is also a co-owner of Galaxy Rock, which is entered in two of the big amateur races.

This year's festival is notable for the absence of other builders and developers. However Frank Boyd, one of the owners of William Ewart (one of the biggest property firms in Northern Ireland), has an interest in the Champion Hurdle. His wife Rose is a co-owner of one of the favourites, Hurricane Fly.

Tony Kilduff's co-owned American Trilogy is a short price for the Centenary Novices Chase.

Paddy Teahon, the former secretary-general of the Department of An Taoiseach, also has a big chance. His Teahon Consulting owns Mourad, a 10/1 shot in the World Hurdle. And C&D Petfoods' Philip Reynolds -- son of the former Taoiseach Albert -- owns Stephanie Kate, a long shot in the David Nicholson Mares Hurdle on Tuesday.

Sunday Indo Business

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