Modus primed for Betfair Hurdle battle at Newbury
David Metcalf | February 12, 2016
Modus can take advantage of what looks a lenient mark to make a winning handicap debut in the ultra-competitive Betfair Hurdle at Newbury (15.35).
The gelding has some very smart bumper form to his name when trained by Robert Stephens, finishing second to Moonracer at the Cheltenham Festival and a cracking third to Bellshill in a Grade 1 contest at Punchestown.
Modus was purchased by leading Irish owner JP McManus after those efforts and sent to champion trainer Paul Nicholls.
The six-year-old then opened his account for the Ditcheat handler at the first time of asking when easily landing a 2m 1f novice hurdle at Taunton.
After racing keenly in midfield, Modus made smooth headway at the sixth to challenge two from home and, after being shaken-up approaching the last, quickened effortlessly clear on the run-in to score with tons more in hand than the 3 3/4 length winning margin suggests.
Form of Newbury win has a strong look
Modus backed that up with a neck success over Charmix at Newbury, where he was given another confident ride by Barry Geraghty and scored with plenty up his sleeve.
The runner-up went on to score next time up and is now rated 145, and the pair pulled 24 lengths clear of the field to give the form a solid look.
Judged on that effort, Modus looks to have got in lightly off an opening mark of 139, and although he failed to land the hat-trick last time out when third at Taunton the son of Motivator was only beaten 5 1/2 lengths and was not knocked about, having raced on the worst of the ground on the inside throughout.
Modus has clearly been trained with this race in mind, and he looks to have major claims of providing owner McManus with a third win in the race.
McManus mob handed
McManus also has four other entries in the 2m contest, and Blazer looks the pick of the quartet and a big player.
The Willie Mullins trained gelding is very lightly-traced and bounced back from a poor run over fences when bolting up in a competitive 15-runner handicap hurdle at Leopardstown seven days ago.
Blazer relished the testing conditions and scored with any amount in hand, and McManus’ retained jockey Barry Geraghty has decided to partner him over Modus.
That may will be significant, but it a big ask to win this turned out so quickly and that lack of experience may well count against the five-year-old.