John Romans Park Homes 'Rising Stars' Novices' Chase (Grade 2) | 2m4f | 4yo+ | RUK/ITV4
Following Paul Nicholls' runners in this Grade 2 event has been the way to go in the last ten years as the Ditcheat maestro has sent out no fewer than six winners, including Silviniaco Conti (2011), Wonderful Charm (2013) and Frodon (2016).
This time around Nicholls is represented by the JP McManus-owned Modus, who scored on his first start over fences at Bangor 12 days ago when sent off at 2-9, despite a few sticky moments down the back straight.
This year's Lanzarote Hurdle winner missed a couple of his early fences and looked in trouble when the front-runner, and outsider of three, Midnight Target kicked round the home bend, but his class and raw ability showed in the end as he pulled five lengths clear under hands and heels after the last.
Frank Berry, racing manager to McManus, said: "Paul is very happy with him and he did his job well last time out when he won. It looks like Paul has found a grand race for him to run in and we're hoping for a good round.
"We'll get this race out of the way first, then see where we go with him."
Modus faces just two rivals, including the 147-rated Kalondra, who also puts his unbeaten chase record on the line after bolting up in a Sedgefield beginners' chase last month.
Normally held-up, connections will hope this doesn't turn into a sprint given Modus' Flat pedigree, and the six-year-old finished behind Nicholls' runner in a Listed hurdle at Kempton last season, despite receiving 10lb.
Trainer Neil Mulholland said: "It's a nice, small event. He jumped and travelled well at Sedgefield and hopefully he's improved for the run. We're looking forward to it."
The field is completed by the Colin Tizzard-trained Valhalla, who looks to have a tough task at the weights but is owned by Terry Warner and John Romans, who sponsors the race.
Warner said: "John wanted to run him in his race and if he can win he'll be delighted. Valhalla will do his best."