Module gets vote to land nice prize for Brennan
IT'S a case of what's seldom is wonderful at Huntingdon today as the track stages its annual highlight, the Peterborough Chase.
Not that many years ago, decent midweek prizes were regularly up for grabs during the winter, but the practice in recent times has been to move all the big feature races to weekend meetings.
Thankfully, Huntingdon's Grade 2 contest has managed to keep its traditional Thursday date and quality wins out over quantity in a seven-strong field for the £60,000 conditions event this afternoon.
Among the talent on parade are last year's King George runner-up, Captain Chris, and 2012 Ryanair Chase winner, Riverside Theatre, so racegoers have much to look forward to. Both of those contenders are making their seasonal debuts and, on the evidence of what we have seen from Nicky Henderson's horses in recent weeks, that is going to count against Riverside Theatre.
Punters only have to look at Captain Conan's run in the Tingle Creek last Saturday to be reminded the Seven Barrows string is not as forward as usual -- not to mention the fact Barry Geraghty's mount failed to make the first three during any of his runs last season.
Captain Chris, however, is one horse which can be relied to fire first-time-out, as he has made a winning return in his last two campaigns. The Philip Hobbs-trained gelding enjoyed an excellent campaign last time around, once again showing his preference for right-handed tracks with good runs at Ascot sandwiching his excellent effort to finish a neck second to Long Run in the King George at Kempton.
The nine-year-old was due to make his return in last month's Amlin 1965 Chase at Ascot, but missed out after a slight setback and an additional concern is he has to give weight to six talented foes.
Two horses which have runs under their belts and are worthy of closer inspection are Champion Court and Module.
The former, trained by Martin Keighley, finished just under 17 lengths behind Captain Chris when fourth in last year's King George, but this four-furlong shorter trip is much more up his street.
Under a big weight, Champion Court finished seventh to John's Spirit in the Paddy Power at Cheltenham and there's little doubt he will appreciate the better ground here.
However, a tentative vote goes to Module which made an excellent return at Exeter last month when going down by the narrowest of margins to Somersby in the Haldon Gold Cup. The six-year-old has had only a handful of starts to date, but he has been mixing it with the likes of Colour Squadron, Aintree winner Rebel Rebellion and Tony Martin's Benefficient among others.
Module won two of his four starts over fences last term, as well as finishing a fine fourth in the Jewson at Cheltenham on his final run of the campaign.
When runner-up at Exeter, subsequent Betfair Chase winner Cue Card was back in third and while Module was getting plenty weight from him, the step back up to two and a half miles should spark further improvement from Paddy Brennan's mount.
Henderson and Geraghty should make a visit to the winner's enclosure with the consistent Une Artiste carrying high hopes in the mares' novice chase. A winner of the Fred Winter at Cheltenham in 2012, she was narrowly beaten on her chasing debut at Plumpton and should come on significantly.
The novice hurdle on the card also looks an interesting contest with former decent Flat campaigner Namibian making his debut for John Ferguson.
Winner of the Group 3 Gordon Stakes at Goodwood for Mark Johnston, Denis O'Regan's mount hasn't run for over two years and Wadswick Court looks a safer option for the in-form team of Charlie Longsdon and Noel Fehily.
A winner of two bumpers, the five-year-old couldn't handle the step-up in class behind Red Sherlock at Cheltenham last month, but this looks an ideal opportunity for the son of Court Cave to shine on his debut over hurdles.