Module: was a neck behind Somersby when third in the Champion ChasePICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
George set to choose Punchestown for Module
SANDOWN may have attracted Sire De Grugy to the Grade 1 bet365 Celebration Chase on Saturday, but serious opposition to the top chaser could be thin on the ground with Tom George all but ruling out Champion Chase third Module, who is instead likely to head to Ireland.
Those who made the frame in the Champion Chase at Cheltenham could again clash in the boylesports.com Champion Chase at Punchestown, with Mick Channon having already confirmed runner-up Somersby will swerve a re-match with Gary Moore's eight-year-old and Sizing Europe also among the entries.
Module's trainer Tom George said: "His first choice has always been Punchestown. We'll make sure we're happy with him, but it is much more likely he'll go to Ireland [than Sandown].
"He had a tummyache, which ruled him out of Aintree, but we took him for a day out at Cheltenham the other day and he took it in his stride. He's done his last piece of fast work, so we'll keep him ticking over. Barry Geraghty rides."
With both Somersby and Module set to miss Sandown, Sire De Grugy will have upwards of a stone in hand of his rivals as he bids for a fourth success at the highest level in a fantastic season.
Desert Cry, part-owned by former Manchester United manager David Moyes, and Henry de Bromhead's Special Tiara, both rated 16lb inferior, could be the sternest opposition.
However, Emma Lavelle is keen to take on Sire De Grugy provided the ground is no worse than good for Claret Cloak, who was third in handicaps at Cheltenham and Aintree.
She said: "We will not be avoiding Sire De Grugy. We're happy to take him on, but we'll be guided by the weather. We're keen to run but he needs good ground or better. We're not rated to dent Sire De Grugy's reputation, but he deserves a crack at a nice prize at the end of the season. If he doesn't run he could go to Kempton on May 5, or to a nice, grassy field."
Clerk of the course Andrew Cooper expects the ground to be no quicker than good, which would allow Sire De Grugy to line up.
Cooper said: "We had 15mm of rain on Monday night and the hurdles course is good to soft, while it is good in places on the chase track. We are forecast further rain on Wednesday and possibly during racing on Saturday.
"It won't stay good to soft if we have a dry week, but it will be no quicker than good. Depending on how much rain we get it could be on the slow side."
There has been a big move in the bet365 Gold Cup market for the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Same Difference, who was cut to 9-1 (from 16) by the sponsors.
A two-length runner-up to Quentin Collonges last year off a rating of 144, the eight-year-old former Cheltenham Festival winner lines up off a 7lb lower mark this season.
Twiston-Davies said: "He was second last year, so I hope he'll go one better. He's in good form and has come out of his race at the festival [fifth in the Kim Muir] in good nick."