Modus repays McManus' investment with Kempton victory for Geraghty and Nicholls
Modus finally landed the big prize he has long promised in the 32Red Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton yesterday.
The son of Motivator was runner-up in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham a couple of years ago for Robert Stephens, prompting powerhouse owner JP McManus to snap him up for big money and send him to champion trainer Paul Nicholls.
He landed a couple of minor novice hurdles on his first two starts for new connections, but had come up short in better company since, albeit performing well in competitive handicaps at Ascot and Cheltenham earlier this season.
The seven-year-old disappointed on his latest appearance in Ascot's Wessex Youth Trust Handicap Hurdle - formerly known as the Ladbroke - but showed his true colours over this longer trip under a well-judged ride from Barry Geraghty.
The positively-ridden Templeross, bidding to complete a hat-trick for the afternoon for trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies, held the advantage rounding the home turn, but 7/1 chance Modus was moving ominously well in behind and kicked clear to seal a two-and-three-quarter-length success.
Harry Derham, Nicholls' assistant, said: "We're really pleased and I think the step up in trip has helped him win what was a nice pot.
"Myself and Clifford (Baker, head lad) discussed putting the hood back on him. He had it on when he was placed at Ascot and Cheltenham earlier in the season, but didn't have it on last time, so we felt it wouldn't hurt him having it on again.
"Paul's away until next week and there are no plans. We'll talk to Mr (Frank) Berry (owner's racing manager) and see where we go."
Nigel and Sam Twiston-Davies combined to win successive races on the card. Foxtail Hill (9/2) was an emphatic eight-length winner of the 32Red On The App Store Handicap Chase, despite jumping left for much of the way.
His stable companion Ballymalin was all heart when claiming his fourth win from five starts over obstacles in the 32Red.com Novices' Hurdle.
The 2/1 shot bowled along at the head of affairs from the off and dug deep into his reserves to see off Beneagles by three-quarters of a length.
The winning jockey said: "Foxtail Hill was good, but it was probably a poor race that cut up with the two horses falling.
"He did it well, though, and hopefully he'll do a bit better next time going the other way round. Ballymalin was very tough and ground it out well and he'd be a horse I'd looking forward to riding over a fences next season. I don't know where he'll go next. We'll leave that to the boss."
Twiston-Davies junior went on to complete a hat-trick aboard the Charlie Longsdon-trained Our Kaempfer (5/1), which laughed at his rivals in the 32Red.com Handicap Chase.
Fidux (4/1) maintained his unbeaten record over jumps with victory in the 32Red Casino Juvenile Hurdle.
Alan King's youngster scraped home on his National Hunt debut at Catterick in November, but raised his game to win this prize by four-and-a-half lengths after making all the running.
Dan Downie, racing manager for owners Axom, said: "We're very happy and he's such a tough horse. When I watched him on the Flat in France before we bought him I loved the way he was sticking his neck out and he showed that again today.
"The plan wasn't to make the running, but the plan changed when there was no pace on as we didn't want it to turn into a sprint as it did at Catterick.
"I'm not sure where we'll go now, but I think he'll probably have another run in February somewhere and we can make a decision on Cheltenham after that.
"There's the Triumph Hurdle and the Fred Winter is another option, so we'll see. If he performs well again next time then Cheltenham will be in the mix."
Vaniteux claimed his third win over fences in the 32Red Casino Chase.
Nicky Henderson's 5/4 favourite got the better of the only other finisher Vibrato Valtat to take the Listed prize by two-and-a-quarter lengths.
The King-trained, Geraghty-ridden and McManus-owned River Frost sent favourite-backers home happy by obliging as the 9/4 market leader in the concluding 32Red.com Handicap Hurdle.
Sunday Indo Sport