PUNTERS have been left flummoxed after two key JP McManus horses who looked like they could miss Cheltenham Festival have been pencilled in for stunning comebacks.
Both Iroko and Inthepocket could make Festival returns.
PARachael Blackmore won on Inthepocket at last year’s Grand National Festival[/caption]
Iroko was ruled out for the season last November but trainers Oliver Greenall and Josh Guerriero are now aiming him at the Turners Novices’ Chase.
Similarly, Inthepocket is now back in training and handler Henry de Bromhead has refused to rule out him running in a month’s time.
The Grade 1-winning novice hurdler came fourth in last year’s Supreme and was last seen finishing second to Facile Vega at Navan last November.
He was meant to run at Leopardstown over Christmas but met with a setback and it was feared he, like Iroko, could be out for the rest of the season.
But Grand National-winning trainer De Bromhead said he is now back in training.
And he said Cheltenham is not fully off the cards.
De Bromhead said: “He’s been back in training a few weeks now and we’ve been very happy with him.
“Nothing is set in stone yet, and no decisions have been made. We’ll see how he is over the next week or two and then sort out a plan for him.”
Meanwhile, Iroko, who won last year’s Martin Pipe, was scratched from the 2m Arkle on Tuesday morning.
The six-year-old gelding, who won the Class 3 Stan Mellor at Warwick on his sole start this season, has been left in the Turners.
Speaking of his remarkable recovery, Greenall said: “I think he’ll go to Cheltenham.
“He won’t be able to have a run before, there’s not enough time, but he’ll get to Cheltenham.
“It’s great that he’s back anyway, and he’s back in full training.”
Punters were shocked to hear both horses, who many had written off, could be back.
One said: “First Iroko, and now Inthepocket has returned to training and is a possible for the Cheltenham Festival.
“At this point, I’m half expecting JP McManus to announce that Istabraq is back in training and ready to show Constitution Hill who’s boss!”
While another said simply: “You could not make it up.”
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