Legends line up at Punchestown

Sir Alex Ferguson (left), jockey Mick Kinane and Rock of Gibraltar

Mick Kinane and Aidan O'Brien are reunited in the John Shortt Legends Challenge Race at Punchestown on Thursday.

Kinane and O'Brien formed one of the most successful partnerships seen in world racing, teaming up with such luminaries as Galileo, Giant's Causeway, Rock Of Gibraltar, Hawk Wing, High Chaparral, Yeats and many others.

And the old guard are back together in a star-studded event, with Kinane riding Air Supremacy against some of the greats of both codes in a race put on in memory of former National Hunt jockey Shortt.

Shortt lost his battle with cancer in February, aged 53, but before he died purchased a plot of land on which to build a family home for his wife, Anne Marie, and daughter Alex, and the race will be raising funds towards that goal.

"It just goes to show what people thought of John," said Kinane. "He was a wonderful man and this race and the people involved, Aidan O'Brien, Willie Mullins, Gordon Elliott – it shows how popular he was.

"It will be a very interesting race, that's for sure, and one thing that is for certain is that those of us riding in it won't look like we did in former years! I'm really looking forward to it, as are the rest of the lads.

"Aidan was very keen to provide a horse for this race and Ballydoyle and Coolmore are always very supportive of occasions like this.

"It's the first time I've ridden for him since George Washington, but despite all their success they never forget and it's great to team up again.

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"I'm sure it will be a great day and I hope we raise plenty of cash for John's family."

For Charlie Swan it will be an emotional day as he was very close friends with Shortt and will once more be donning the green and gold colours of owner JP McManus, for whom he rode the mighty hurdler Istabraq.

"John was a lovely guy. We used to sit next to each other in the weighing room," said Swan, who takes the mount on the Joseph O'Brien-trained Successor.

"When he gave up riding and gave it a go as an agent, he used to book my rides. I had no falling out with my old agent, I just told him I wanted to help John out.

"You only need to look at the names involved in this race to see how well liked he was."

Another famous partnership back in tandem is that of Paul Carberry and Noel Meade, with the talented Monksland lining up, having last been seen finishing fourth in the Coral Cup at Cheltenham.

"It's a very good line-up of riders – it's a true legends race," said Meade.

"Monksland should run well. He's in very good form and obviously Paul knows him well.

"We'll probably be mixing and matching with him this year and we might look at something like the Lismullen Hurdle at Navan next."

Cheltenham Gold Cup and Champion Hurdle winner Norman Williamson gets the leg-up on the giant Pallasator, who has a quirk or two and is now with Gordon Elliott for a hurdling campaign after leaving Sir Mark Prescott.

"I've been to ride him and he was on his best behaviour," said Williamson. "It was a getting to know you session, we only went six furlongs, but it was without mishap. We'll see how he goes, but I had no problem on the gallops at least.

"It should be a cracking day and we're all really looking forward to it."

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