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The racing world has been dominated by who would land the lion's share of JP McManus' retained rider Barry Geraghty's Cheltenham Festival rides at Prestbury Park next week and today many of the pieces went into place with Noel Fehily, Mark Walsh and Aidan Coleman, bagging a number of Geraghty's big-race mounts.
Mark Walsh who has ridden just 31 times in Britain in the last five years, is arguably the biggest benefactor however as he has come in for the ride on the Alan King-trained Yanworth, who shades favouritism for the Stan James Champion Hurdle.
A winner of three starts this season, which included a narrow length success in the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton last time out, the seven-year-old son of Norse Dancer has only been ridden by Barry Geraghty in his career but Walsh not has a huge chance to highlight his credentials at the Greatest Show on Turf.
Walsh has also landed the rides on Yanworth's stable-mate Uxizandre who ran a cracker to finish second in the Clarence House Chase on Festival Trials Day earlier this term, his first run since landing the 2015 Ryanair Chase at the Festival under Sir Anthony McCoy.
The Irishman has also been announced as the rider of Jessica Harrington's Jezki in the Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle and More Of That for Jonjo O'Neill in Racing's Blue Riband event, the Cheltenham Gold Cup, who was travelling well under Walsh before falling in the home straight.
Walsh is a superb horseman who has a list of big-race successes to his name in Ireland, including a victory aboard Carlingford Lough in the 2016 Irish Gold Cup.
Reflecting on the news, Barbury Castle handler King commented to the Press Association Sport: "Mark Walsh is going to come over and have a sit on Yanworth and Uxizandre, probably on Thursday, and the plan is that he'll ride both horses at Cheltenham.
"I don't know him at all, but he's a very good rider. I've been very happy with both horses since their last runs. Everything has gone well."
Other bombshell news that broke surrounding who would ride McManus' horses at the Festival today included the revelation that Noel Fehily would ride Buveur D'Air, trained by Nicky Henderson, in the Champion Hurdle. The six-year-old son of Crillon was a facile winner of the Contenders Hurdle at Sandown last time after connections decided to revert to hurdles after starting the season with a novice chase campaign.
Fehily knows the horse well having steered him to a third place finish in last year's Supreme Novices' Hurdle at the Festival before scoring in Grade One company at Aintree's Grand National Festival.
Fehily also lands the plum ride on Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle favourite Unowhatimeanharry who Fehily partnered to victory in the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle at the 2016 Cheltenham Festival.
The nine-year-old has looked a superb staying hurdler this season, winning all three of his starts, including facile victories in the Grade One Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot in December and the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham on Festival Trials Day.
Aidan Coleman, who has ridden a number of McManus-trained horses this season, also picked up some spare rides and will partner My Tent Or Yours in the Champion Hurdle, second in the 2014 and 2016 editions of the race and Minella Rocco, a winner of the four-mile National Hunt Chase at the Festival last year, and who runs in National Hunt racing's Blue Riband event, the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Words By: Danny Archer
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