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Festival fever overtakes coronavirus fear as JP McManus celebrates birthday at Cheltenham

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Jockey Barry Geraghty, right, trainer Nicky Henderson, left, and owner JP McManus after winning the Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy with Epatante
Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Jockey Barry Geraghty, right, trainer Nicky Henderson, left, and owner JP McManus after winning the Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy with Epatante Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Crowd's wait for the gates to open on day one of the Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse, Cheltenham.

Crowd's wait for the gates to open on day one of the Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse, Cheltenham.

PA Images

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Jockey Barry Geraghty, right, trainer Nicky Henderson, left, and owner JP McManus after winning the Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy with Epatante Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

As birthday presents go, they don’t come more perfect than winning your ninth Champion Hurdle Trophy on the first day of Cheltenham.

Limerick horse-racing magnate JP McManus was all smiles in the winners' enclosure as he celebrated turning 69 by claiming victory in the feature race with his 2/1 favourite Epatante.

Superbly piloted to victory by Barry Geraghty, a huge roar erupted from the crowd as they watched the champion jockey clock up his fourth win in the prestigious race, much to the delight of British trainer Nicky Henderson.