Mr Moonshine’s hand is forced by handicapper

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IF Harvey Smith had his way, stable star Mr Moonshine would not be taking on established chasers – like Henrietta Knight’s Somersby – in today’s Peterborough Chase over a trip that is far from being ideal.

The former show-jumper and his wife Sue, who train near Bingley, would rather be allowing their seven-year-old to gain some experience in a less competitive novice contest than taking on top-class horses so early in his chasing career.

But, after Mr Moonshine followed up his debut win over fences at Carlisle by putting a quality field to the sword at Haydock, Smith was forced to allow this ultra-fit horse to take his chance in Huntingdon’s Grade Two contest.

“They (handicappers) have put him out of everything else so he has nowhere else to go,” said Smith. “He’s going to get three-and-a-half miles and he’d be the best of the long-distance horses we have, but he has enough pace for two-and-a-half.

“So far his jumping has looked his strong suit – he’s very quick at his fences. The horse is fresh and well and you can do no more than have a go.”

The positive is that the Smith stable is in a rich vein of form – Camden George’s victory at Hexham yesterday was the yard’s 25th of the season.

And jockey Henry Oliver believes the Peterborough Chase may help determine the horse’s longer-term prospects than waiting for the Feltham Novices Chase on Boxing Day, the intended target of the precocious Grands Crus.

“Two-and-a-half miles today will be as short as he wants, but good, soft winter ground should be a plus,” Oliver told the Yorkshire Post. “The key is to get a bit more experience.”

The class contender in today’s eight-runner field is Somersby, who is bidding to give the aforementioned Knight a ninth victory in the contest following Edredon Bleu (four times), Best Mate, Impek and Racing Demon (twice).

However, Knight feels Somersby could be slightly less suited to the track than her other winners. “He’s very consistent, but the others were nippier,” she said. “He’s a big, long, strapping horse and I hope he won’t get into a muddle over the fences.”

Andrew Tinkler has suffered a delay in his attempts to recover from a broken hand.

The Malton-born jockey, who rides for the likes of Nicky Henderson, suffered the injury at last month’s Hennessy meeting. He had been booked for a ride at Hereford on Sunday but now faces a further fortnight in plaster.

Shahrastani, the 1986 Derby hero, has been put down, aged 28. His was one of the most controversial Epsom wins, jockey Walter Swinburn holding off Dancing Brave after Greville Starkey misjudged his challenge on the subsequent Arc winner.