Manning booked for Bumper gamble Author

MULTIPLE Group One-winning Flat jockey Kevin Manning will ride the heavily-backed First Author in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at Cheltenham on Wednesday.

Gerard O’Leary’s charge was the subject of serious ante-post support for the Grade One event after catching the eye when working with dual Champion Hurdle winner Hardy Eustace at Leopardstown last Sunday.

The five-year-old, who won his only start at Fairyhouse in December, is as low as 10-1 in places having been available at 33-1 at the weekend, with O’Leary delighted to have the services of a pilot well-known for his exploits on the globetrotting Alexander Goldrun among others.

“Kevin Manning has a National Hunt licence and has done a lot of the homework with the horse. He rode him at Leopardstown last Sunday,” said O’Leary, who has never had a runner at the showpiece meeting.

“He was quite happy with him, but won’t sit on him again until Cheltenham, as long as we get in.

“He was due to run as a two-year-old, but had a setback and missed out. He then kept growing as a three-year-old so we waited until he was a four-year-old to run and he won in Fairyhouse.

“It wasn’t the plan to not run him again before Cheltenham, but the ground has been so heavy and testing that we decided it wouldn’t have been right to run him.

“He acts on soft, but good ground will bring the best out of him as he is a lovely-actioned horse.”

First Author is one of 45 horses remaining following the five-day declarations, with race specialist Willie Mullins represented by Ballytrim, Equus Maximus, Freds Benefit, Irish Invader and Shady Willow.

Perce Rock and Female are other notable Irish entries and both will fly the flag for owner JP McManus.

“They are both intended runners and are in good form,” said his racing manager Frank Berry.

The home defence is headed by Paul Nicholls’ Kicks For Free, Jonjo O’Neill’s Wichita Lineman and Philip Hobbs’ Leading Contender.

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