22 December 2023

Iberico Lord heads strong McManus pair in Trophy hunt

22 December 2023

Iberico Lord and Impose Toi give leading owner JP McManus two strong chances of victory in the Betfair Exchange Trophy at Ascot on Saturday.

Having shown glimpses of promise during his novice campaign, Iberico Lord looked an improved performer when claiming top honours on his reappearance in last month’s Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham and is well fancied to claim another major handicap victory this weekend.

His Nicky Henderson stablemate Impose Toi also made a successful return from a break at Cheltenham’s November meeting, albeit in lesser company, and the owner’s racing manager Frank Berry feels the pair are tough to split.

He said: “Their form ties in pretty closely and they’re both in good form. Nicky is happy with them and we’re hoping for the best.

“You’d be hoping they can both improve, it’s a lovely race for the two of them and a valuable race, so it’s nice to have two nice ones for it.”

The McManus-owned duo form part of a three-pronged assault for Henderson, who is also hopeful of a bold showing from his talented mare Luccia.

“We’re very happy with all three. Iberico Lord is in great order, he jumped five hurdles on Thursday morning and he looked very sharp,” the Seven Barrows handler told Sky Sports Racing.

“Impose Toi won at the same Cheltenham meeting. We were thinking of going to Sandown but that ground was so unattractive that we kept him back and JP was happy to run the two against each other.

“They are the same age, have similar profiles from France so they’ve got to take each other on, it’s a big prize. You probably need all the bullets you can find.

“Luccia is lurking there quite menacingly. She jumped half a dozen with Paul O’Brien on Thursday and he rides her. She’s in really good shape.”

Altobelli made a promising start to his campaign when second at Ascot in November and his trainer Harry Fry is confident there is more to come.

“His last run was his first run in a handicap and I was keen to get some more experience into him before going for a better race,” he said.

“Saturday is competitive, as you’d expect, but he’s in really good form with himself and should be all the better for that run.

“Hopefully he can be there or thereabouts.”

Gary Moore’s Hansard is allotted top-weight of 12 stone following his victory in Gerry Feilden at Newbury last month, although some of that hefty burden is offset by Niall Houlihan’s 3lb claim.

“He’s got his fair share of weight and it will have to be a big performance (to win),” said Moore.

“The good thing is Niall hasn’t been able to ride a winner recently, so he’s still able to take 3lb off. He’s a horse we’ve always thought highly of.”

Onlyamatteroftime is prominent in the market, despite having run out as favourite for the Greatwood Hurdle on his first start for Willie Mullins.

Kerry Lee’s Welsh Champion Hurdle winner and Greatwood fifth Nemean Lion, Dan Skelton’s Faivoir and the hat-trick-seeking Moveit Like Minnie from the Nigel Twiston-Davies yard also feature.

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