Winter Escape heads strong McManus team in Greatwood

Winter Escape: has topped the Greatwood betting since it opened

Winter Escape heads strong McManus team By Lewis Porteous 10:10AM 13 NOV 2016

JP MCMANUS appears to hold the aces in what is traditionally one of Cheltenham’s most competitive handicap hurdles outside the festival in March.

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Winter Escape, unbeaten in three runs over hurdles as a novice last year, heads a three-pronged attack for the prolific owner and has topped the ante-post market since betting opened for the stanjames.com Greatwood Handicap Hurdle.

Winner of the Grade 2 Dovecote Novices' Hurdle on his third and final run last season, connections resisted the temptation to run at the spring festivals and hope to see their patience rewarded this term.

Alan King, trainer of Winter Escape, said: "He did everything we asked of him last season but I'm glad we decided to put him away after the Dovecote as he matured through the summer and came back from his holiday a much stronger horse.

"It's always one of the most competitive handicaps of the season but Winter Escape has been pencilled in for this since the early autumn and we'd be very hopeful about his chance off 142 if only the wet stuff would stay away."

Race should suit Modus

Modus carries the McManus second colours but is no back number based on his eyecatching comeback at Ascot last month. On a card where it paid to race on the pace, Modus scythed through the pack having been held up and failed by just three-quarters of a length to overhaul plucky front-runner Sternrubin, who reopposes today but on 2lb worse terms with the Paul Nicholls-trained contender.

"He just needed the run a little bit at Ascot," said Nicholls. "Harry [Cobden] got a bit of criticism for perhaps overdoing the waiting tactics but that’s exactly what I told him to do.

"I needed to see the horse finish his race and that’s what he did – he stayed on strong. It suits him to be ridden like that and a fast-run race will really suit him. If he runs like he did at Ascot he’s got a big chance."

Hargam is the outsider of the McManus trio but carries top weight for a reason and showed his wellbeing with a Listed win at Kempton a month ago.

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