Sporting John in contention for 2021 Cheltenham Festival glory

LEADING owner JP McManus will have his usual army of runners at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival. And one horse who has come from nowhere to be in contention of glory is Sporting John.

Trained in Minehead, Somerset, by Philip Hobbs, Sporting John won the Grade One Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase at Sandown recently where he was given a peach of a ride by former champion Richard Johnson.

Hobbs this week said that the state of the ground will dictate which race his young star will contest at next month’s Cheltenham Festival. 

Sporting John will either run in the Marsh Novices’ Chase over 2m 4f or go up to three miles for the first time in his career in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase. He has been taken out of the Sporting Life Arkle Novices’ Chase over two miles. 

The six year old finished down the field in last season’s Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the Festival. He was then disappointing on his chasing debut when only third at Exeter but left that form behind to win the Scilly Isles

Hobbs said: “If the ground was very soft you would stick to two and a half in the Marsh but if it wasn’t you would probably look at going further with him. It very pleasing to see him win like he did and warm to the task at Sandown as it shows he is going in the right direction.”

Whatever race he goes for he looks a serious player. McManus also has a strong hand in the Champion Hurdle with last year’s winner Epatante.

But another of his horses who could shine at the Festival is Chantry House. Punters seeking a Cheltenham free bet may want to consider the ante-post odds of Chantry House who is now 12-1 for the Marsh Novice’ Chase.

Nicky Henderson’s imposing chaser regained the winning thread at Wetherby this week and will hold strong claims in whatever race he goes for at the Cheltenham Festival next month. 

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