11/20/2003 12:00AM

Best Mate odds-on in Peterborough


Best Mate will embark on what could be an historic jumps season in the 2 9/16-mile Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon Racecourse, 70 miles north of London, on Saturday.

Britain's champion steeplechaser, Best Mate is in the position of becoming the first horse to win three consecutive Cheltenham Gold Cups since the legendary Arkle turned the trick between 1964 and 1966. He has been installed as the 1-2 choice for the Grade 2 Peterborough, which will be his first start since he cruised to a 10-length victory in his second Cheltenham Gold Cup on March 13.

Never worse than second in 16 starts over jumps, Best Mate, an 8-year-old gelding trained by Henrietta Knight, took last year's Peterborough by eight lengths with regular rider Jim Culloty aboard. On Saturday, Best Mate will face a stern challenge from sharp French invader Jair du Cochet, as well as from Valley Henry, who was fourth in the Gold Cup. La Landiere, the winner of seven straight chase races, would also pose a threat, but the 8-year-old mare may run in the First National Gold Cup Chase at Ascot instead.