Few people have enjoyed a closer association with jump racing in the last 30 years than John Patrick ’J P’ McManus, who was born on a farm in Co Limerick onMarch 10, 1951 and attended the Christian Brothers school on Sexton Street, Limerick. He left his father’s plant hire business at the age of 20 to become a racecourse bookmaker, but then took the less well-trodden route of gamekeeper-turned-poacher when becoming a professional punter.
McManus recalls one of his first bets as being on Merryman II in the 1960 Grand National when he was just nine, but the bet that changed his life was £4 on Linden Tree in a Newmarket maiden in 1970,the horse winning at 100/8. He had another £4 on when Linden Tree won the Observer Gold Cup at 25/1, and £5 each-way at 33/1 for the Derby, when the horse beat all bar Mill Reef.
The amount he wagered grew rapidly and he is still one of the highest-staking punters on the racecourse. Dubbed “the Sundance Kid” by journalist Hugh McIlvanney after a number of major gambles in the ring during the 1970s, he is also the biggest jump owner in terms of numbers in Britain, Ireland and France (some 300 horses spread over 50 trainers ran for him last season) after he purchased his first racehorse, Cill Dara, at the age of 26.
JP has a host ofbusiness interests including dealing in financial markets from his Geneva base and part-ownership of the Sandy Lane Hotel in Barbados, where he also has a house. With John Magnier, he bought a 28.7% stake in Manchester United through the Cubic Expression company before subsequently selling out to US tycoon MalcolmGlazer in 2005.
He was in the news shortly after that because of his stake in the pub and restaurant operator Mitchells and Butler. In 2010, the Sunday Times estimated McManus’ wealth at £481 million, making him the 11th richest person in Ireland. Since Mister Donovan landed the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 1982, he has enjoyed 31 other Cheltenham Festival successes, headed by the great three-time Champion Hurdle hero Istabraq and the brilliant Baracouda, who landed the2002 and 2003 renewals of what is now the Ladbrokes World Hurdle.
In 2010, JP won a fourth Champion Hurdle with Binocular. He does a lot of work for charity and his Pro-Am golf tournament, which takes place every five years, has raised over 95 million euros. McManus is also a keen backgammon player and a big hurling fan. He owns Jackdaws Castle, the Gloucestershire yard that Jonjo O’Neill trains from, and has invested heavily in improving facilities since purchasing the propertyin 2001.
JP was British champion owner for the 2005/6, 2006/7, 2008/9 and 2009/10 seasons. A full 28 years after his runner in the race, McManus finally achieved a long-held ambition when Don’t Push It won the 2010 John Smith’s Grand National. He often has multiple entries in the race; five runners in 2004, six in 2005, four in 2006, two in 2007, four in 2008, four in 2009 and four in 2010.
Prior to Don’t Push It’s success, Clan Royal went close when second in 2004, was carried out when in the lead at Becher’s second time around in 2005 and was third in 2006, while King Johns Castle filled the runner-up spot in the 2008 contest.
JP has 6 entries in the 2011 John Smith’s Grand National having recently acquired the fancied Bluesea Cracker.
John Smith’s GrandNational Record: 1982 Deep Gale (Fell 1st), 1988 Bucko (PU bef 27th), 1992 Laura’s Beau (3rd), 1994 Laura’s Beau (Fell 6th), 1996 Wylde Hide (UR 24th),1997 Wylde Hide (UR 22nd); 1998 Gimme Five (5th), 2002 Spot Thedifference (UR 27th); 2003 Youlneverwalkalone (PU bef 13th); 2004 Clan Royal (2nd),Spot Thedifference (5th), Risk Accessor (UR 6th), Le Coudray (Fell 22nd); 2005 Innox (7th), Spot Thedifference (18th), Shamawan (21st), Clan Royal (CO22nd), Le Coudray (PU before 21st), Risk Accessor (UR 2nd); 2006 Clan Royal (3rd), Risk Accessor (5th), Innox (Fell 1st), First Gold (UR 23rd); 2007 L’Ami(10th), Clan Royal (11th); 2008 King Johns Castle (2nd), L’Ami (Fell 2nd), Bob Hall (PU bef 19th), Butler’s Cabin (Fell 22nd); 2009 Butler’s Cabin (7th),Reveillez (BD 3rd), Can’t Buy Time (Fell 18th), L’Ami (PU bef 30th); 2010 DON’T PUSH IT (WON), Can’t Buy Time (Fell 8th), Arbor Supreme (UR 15th), KingJohns Castle (refused to race)
Information courtesy of the matchless Racenews service