At the entry stage, it looked like the Tingle Creek had the potential to be a burn-up. Special Tiara, Great Field, Gino Trail and Speredek were among the entries, and they all only know one way: go fast from early. Add Saint Calvados and Un De Sceaux to the mix, and you could have run the first five furlongs on Sandown’s sprint track.
Only four runners remain, but it doesn’t mean that the race is lacking intrigue.
You still have Saint Calvados and Un De Sceaux in there, so you know that there is going to be no hiding place. And you have the mighty Altior: Arkle winner of 2017, Champion Chase winner of 2018.
Altior Still The Class Of The Field
It is difficult to pick holes in Altior on the face of it. Nicky Henderson’s horse is unbeaten in 14 runs – five over hurdles, nine over fences – since he finished sixth behind Bellshill in the Punchestown bumper in 2015, and he is clear on official ratings. He is rated 7lb higher than Un De Sceaux, and he has 16lb and 17lb in hand respectively of Sceau Royal and Saint Calvados.
There are potential negatives though. He hasn’t travelled as well as he can in his last two races. He was under pressure in the Champion Chase at Cheltenham on the run down the hill and, more pertinently, he was not overly impressive in winning the Celebration Chase over the Tingle Creek course and distance last April.
He didn’t exude his customary brilliance, and he only beat the talented but exposed 155-rated San Benedeto by just over three lengths.
It may be that Altior will be better stepping up in trip now.
It may be that two miles around Sandown on soft ground does not represent optimal conditions for him.
Making The Case For Un De Sceuax
As well as that, he faces three formidable rivals. Un De Sceaux proved last spring that he was as good as ever at the age of 10. It is impossible to know if he would have beaten Doctor Phoenix at Fairyhouse in early April if that rival had not come down at the second last fence, but there was no disputing his superiority at Punchestown in the Punchestown Champion Chase three weeks later.
He was brilliant that day, he got into a lovely racing rhythm in front for Patrick Mullins, and it never looked likely that he would be caught. He had Douvan and Min and Doctor Phoenix behind him that day, and he recorded his highest Timeform figure since he won the Hilly Way Chase at Cork the previous December by 25 lengths.
It is significant that Willie Mullins is sending him to Sandown, and that he is sending Great Field to Cork for the Hilly Way Chase on Sunday. It is also obviously a significant positive that Ruby Walsh will be on board.
Un De Sceaux’s attacking style of racing is well suited to Sandown.
He won the Tingle Creek Chase in 2016. Also, he only has 7lb to find on Altior on official ratings, and he goes well fresh.
What About The Rest?
Saint Calvados has more to find on official ratings, but he is only five, and he has run just five times over fences, so he has the potential to improve further. Harry Whittington’s horse improved dramatically as a novice last season, winning twice at Newbury and then beating Diego Du Charmil by over 20 lengths in the Kingmaker Chase at Warwick in February.
You can easily forgive him his poor run in the Arkle, as he and Petit Mouchoir got into an early battle for the lead that didn’t help either’s chance of winning the race. Saint Calvados proved that that wasn’t his true running last time on his seasonal debut at Naas when he won comfortably.
Footpad fell when beaten at the final fence that day, but he suffered an over-reach during the race. That said, Saint Calvados could do no more than he did. He travelled well and he jumped well, and he impressed.
He has never run at Sandown but, as with Un De Sceaux, the track should favour his aggressive style of racing.
As long as he doesn’t get into an early skirmish for the lead with Un De Sceaux, he could run a big race.
Sceau Royal could also run a big race. Alan King’s horse was a top class two-mile novice chaser last season. He was impressive in winning the Henry VIII Chase on this day last year, and he followed up by landing the Lightning Chase at Doncaster in January.
He missed the Cheltenham Festival through injury, but he proved that he had continued his forward momentum with a fine performance to win the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham last month on his debut this season.
He oozed class that day. He was free and keen through the early stages of the race, but his jumping was fast, he travelled really well, and he was strong up the hill in the finish in beating Simply Ned, who was finishing second in that race for the third time.
The Doctor Dino gelding is going to have to progress again if he is going to beat Altior and company in a Tingle Creek Chase, but there is every chance that he will. That was just his sixth chase, and he is still only six, so he has bundles of potential for progression. Also, he shouldn’t be as free as he was on his seasonal debut. That was his first run since January, so the freshness should be knocked out of him. He could improve significantly on that run.
He is one for one at Sandown, over this course and distance, at this time of year.
It is a track that obviously suits him well, and he is a big player in today’s race.
Sceau Royal may be the value of the race from a ‘back’ perspective, but laying Altior at odds-on (1.77) on the Matchbook exchange may be the more pragmatic route. He has plenty in hand on official ratings, but he faces three high-class rivals – two of whom have serious potential for progression – under conditions that may be less than optimal for him. He may not be as far clear of his rivals as the market suggests.
On this week’s Matchbook Betting Podcast Tom Stanley is joined by Brendan Powell and Rory Delargy to look ahead to the big races of the weekend. The guys discuss a cracking Tingle Creek plus the Henry VIII & John Durkan and wrap up by taking a look at the Becher Chase. Listen below and search for ‘Matchbook Betting Podcast’ on your preferred podcasting app to subscribe.