Modus can make amends in Greatwood
Ian Ogg analyses the last 10 renewals of the stanjames.com Greatwood Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham and picks out the key statistics.
Modus (l) can land the Greatwood Hurdle for Paul Nicholls
The West Country power house stables of Paul Nicholls and Philip Hobbs have won half of the last 10 runnings of the stanjames.com Greatwood Handicap Hurdle and both, not surprisingly, saddle leading candidates once again.
There is nothing to get too excited about in terms of the age of the winners – although those over eight can be discarded – or in terms of weight and official ratings.
It has though, been a relatively poor race for outsiders even though only one favourite has obliged.
Second season hurdlers have dominated and there's no doubt that the best should still be to come from Winter Escape but with nine winners having raced at either the Cheltenham or Punchestown Festivals, Alan King's runner can be taken on at a short price.
One or two others fall by the wayside on the same basis but thereafter it becomes rather hardy to whittle away at the short-list.
Sternrubin, Modus and Ch'tibello arrive after decent runs in a Listed handicap at Ascot that Brampour won before following up here in 2011. All three merit respect although it's interesting that Harry Skelton switches from the latter to ride the well-regarded North Hill Harvey for his brother Dan who has described the five-year-old as 'more of a stayer'. That attribute may well come in handy as the rain could well turn this race into quite a test.
The handicapper has taken few chances with Brain Power in putting Nicky Henderson's runner up by 12lbs following his third of six in a Grade One at the Punchestown Festival even though there should be more to come once – if – the penny drops for a horse described as 'really stupid'.
Leoncavallo completes the short-list of six and is an interesting runner for the locally based Ben Pauling who could use a boost after the events on the opening day. A promising second on debut for the yard behind Sceau Royal with Wolf Of Windlesham behind, this company will be more to his liking but this is a big test for his relatively inexperienced jockey.
The three from the Ascot handicap and North Hill Harvey appeal as the three to concentrate on and Modus will have plenty of supporters having looked more than a little unlucky in defeat that day.
It's a concern that this hold-up performer could be given too much to do again but there's no doubt that he remains potentially well handicapped and he's taken to provide Nicholls with yet another success in this race with Skelton's pair feared most.
- Winners have been aged four (4), five (4), six and seven.
- Winners have been rated between 124 and 151 with six rated 140+.
- Winners have carried between 10-3 and 11-12 with two winners successful under top-weight.
- Winners have been priced between 6/5 and 12/1 but only one favourite has won.
- Six winners finished in the first four on their preceding start (including Flat runs).
- Five winners had run in either October or November.
- Nine winners had run no more than 10 times over hurdles.
- Nine winners ran at either the Cheltenham or Punchestown Festivals.
- Six winners began their careers on the level, three in bumpers and one over hurdles.
- Seven winners were in their second season over hurdles.
- Seven winners were having their first or second start in a handicap.