Somersby ready for Punchestown
Mick Channon is hoping Somersby can strike Grade One gold as he tackles the Boylesports.com Champion Chase at Punchestown on Tuesday.
With champion two-miler Sire De Grugy safely tucked away for the summer, Somersby has an excellent opportunity to score at the highest level for just the second time in his admirable career.
While the 10-year-old has been placed in Group Ones on numerous occasions, he only once managed to get his head in front, when winning the Clarence House Chase at Ascot in 2012.
Somersby has finished second to Sire De Grugy two times this term, most recently when six lengths adrift in the Champion Chase at Cheltenham.
Channon said: "He's in good form, we're just hoping for some decent ground for him. Hopefully they won't water too much.
"He's finished second to Sire De Grugy a couple of times this season and he's won his Grade Two so he deserves to win a race like this.
"He's in good heart and we're hoping we go there with a good chance."
Module was just a neck behind Somersby at the Festival and was also narrowly beaten by the same horse in the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter last November.
Trainer Tom George retains faith in his seven-year-old, though, and believes Module can reverse form with Somersby at some point, if not in this race.
George said: "It is the opposite way round to Cheltenham but I don't see that as being a problem as he ran well enough in the Haldon Gold Cup that way round at Exeter.
"He's also versatile in terms of ground. He's won on heavy, but I don't think he needs it heavy, he's won on good to soft and he handles good ground, too.
"I'd say the slow side of good would be perfect for him.
"There's only been a neck and a head between him and Somersby in two meetings this season and we'd be hoping we can get the better of him sooner or later.
"Somersby has some top-class form and he has to be respected, but our horse is still young and is lightly raced so you would have to hope he's still improving. Age is certainly on our side."
Module will have a new partner at Punchestown, with Barry Geraghty, who has landed two big races in the last two weeks, taking over from the injured Paddy Brennan.
George said: "It is disappointing for Paddy that he misses the ride with his injury as he's ridden him in every race, but we've not got a bad substitute!"
Hidden Cyclone heads the ante-post markets after finishing runner-up behind Dynaste in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham, his third consecutive second at Grade One level.
Trainer Shark Hanlon is expecting a big run, with the five-furlong drop back to two miles expected to present no problems.
He said: "We were very proud of him at Cheltenham, but also disappointed to have finished second.
"The horse that beat us is a very good horse and our horse deserves a big pot.
"He is dropping back to two miles, but he is a sharp horse and I have no worries about the trip.
"He came back better than he has from any race from Cheltenham, it hasn't left a mark on him.
"I think we go there with every chance. Punchestown would be a great place to win a Grade One and hopefully we won't be far away."
Sizing Europe, who posted a creditable fourth in the Champion Chase at Cheltenham, finished second to Sprinter Sacre in this race last year and Henry de Bromhead's popular 12-year-old takes his chance once again.
De Bromhead said: "He seems in good form and he's ready to go on Tuesday. Hopefully he'll run well.
"The two that finished in front of him at Cheltenham will be there, so we'll have to try to turn the form around with them."
Asked whether this could be six-times Grade One winner Sizing Europe's swansong, the trainer said: "I don't know.
"I'm just preparing him for the race on Tuesday, we'll see how he gets on and go from there."
De Bromhead also runs likely outsider Days Hotel in a race that also features Byrne Group Plate winner Ballynagour for David Pipe and Tony Martin's Grand Annual hero Savello.
Willie Mullins runs Turban and Twinlight, while Mouse Morris' Baily Green completes the field.