Stuart Williams takes an in-depth look at the runners and odds for the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown on Saturday.
- The Grade 1 Betfair Tingle Creek takes place at 15:25 at Sandown on Saturday 5th December.
- Altior is currently the 5/6 favourite for the race.
Tingle Creek Preview & Runners Guide
The Tingle Creek Chase provides the current crop of top class two mile chasers with their first opportunity to stamp their authority on the division, and this year's race will reveal plenty as dual champion chaser Altior will go head-to-head with reigning champion chaser Politologue and a host of second season chasers who will attempt to bridge the gap.
Altior provided champion trainer Nicky Henderson with a second Tingle Creek success in 2018 when coming out on top in a titanic tussle with the ever-popular Un De Sceaux, which came six years after the legendary chaser Sprinter Sacre cemented his superstar status with a facile success.
However, no trainer can better Paul Nicholls' remarkable record in this race, as the eleven time champion trainer will look to secure an incredible eleventh success on Saturday following the victories of Flagship Uberalles, Cenkos, Kauto Star (2), Twist Magic (2), Master Minded (2), Dodging Bullets and, of course, Politologue, who was successful in 2017.
Both trainers have been bullish about their representatives in recent days, and neither will have left anything to chance ahead of this showdown. However, it would be foolish to presume that this is a two horse race and we must look at every horse on their own merits before coming to a firm conclusion.
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Tingle Creek Runners
Altior was unable to defend his Champion Chase crown in March after an eleventh hour setback rendered him unable to compete. However, Nicky's Henderson's superstar remains the one to beat on official figures in spite of the presence of reigning champion Politologue, and there is little doubt that a peak Altior would kick these rivals aside and win a second Tingle Creek on Saturday.
The vibes coming out of Seven Barrows very much suggest that the dual champion chaser is as good as ever, and his adoring trainer was very happy following a recent racecourse gallop with last weekend's Fighting Fifth winner Epatante, albeit the champion hurdler looked to be going a half a stride quicker in the final couple of furlongs at Newbury.
It comes as no surprise that Altior has an impressive record when fresh given his sheer dominance in recent years, achieving form-figures of 11111121 after a break of 53 days or more since heading over hurdles in the autumn of 2015. Indeed, his only defeat came over 2m5f when taking on the highest rated horse in training Cyrname on unsuitably testing ground at Ascot, and Nicky Henderson remains adamant that his star wasn't fit enough to do himself justice in such conditions.
Although Altior wasn't fit enough to handle the conditions on that occasion, it should be noted that he is effective of soft ground, and he did of course bounce back with three-and-a-quarter-lengths success in the Grade 2 Game Spirit Chase at Newbury in February, but not without giving his backers a few scary moments when hitting his customary flat spot.
The master of Seven Barrows has been keen to stress that Altior is much fitter ahead of his seasonal reappearance this year and he is of course still unbeaten over the minimum distance. However, he very nearly missed the 2019 Champion Chase with a minor setback and has only made it to the racetrack 4 times in the last 22 months. It must also be remembered that connections felt that he was worth trying over further at this time last year, even talking about the King George had he defeated Cyrname at Ascot. Therefore, at the age of 10 and having spent a career competing in Grade 1 company, you do have to wonder whether the battle scars of a fine career are starting to take their toll.
Indeed, he would be only the second ten-year-old to land this prize if successful on Saturday, following in the hoof prints of the top class Moscow Flyer, who is currently the only horse to have defied double digits in the Tingle Creek's long and rich history. Which demonstrates how hard it is for older horses to compete in Grade 1 company over the minimum distance.
That said Altior, like the mighty Moscow Flyer before him, is a true champion of the sport, and like any champion in any sport he can do things that others cannot. Therefore he undoubtedly warrants the utmost respect and could easily take plenty of beating if mother time has not yet intervened.
Politologue admittedly won a below par Champion Chase in March after Altior and Chacun Pour Soi became eleventh hour absentees and Defi Du Seuil failed to run his race. However, he still bounced out in front, jumped fluently, and proved 9 and a half lengths too good for his four rivals on the day, and he should not be underestimated this weekend.
John Hales grey could only place fifth in this race 12 months ago following a runner-up effort in the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham, and it's interesting that connections have elected to come here fresh this year, as Politologue boasts form-figures of U111421 following a break of 52 days or more and may therefore run much better this time around.
Indeed, the often underrated nine-year-old landed the Champion Chase off the back off a 95 day absence, and front-running tactics undoubtedly played a big part in that success, therefore it is highly likely that they will be deployed once again on Saturday.
Paul Nicholls will be rubbing his hands with glee should the forecast rain arrive and he claims to have Politologue in the same form that he was in heading to Cheltenham, which is believable given that this is the first of two main targets for the french-bred gelding this season.
Harry Skelton will get the leg-up for just the second time on Saturday and he gave an upbeat report on the fleet-footed grey after travelling to Ditcheat to have a sit on his recently, therefore everyone involved seems bullish about their prospects.
Politologue is rated just 3lbs inferior to Altior and was only beaten one-and-three-quarter-lengths in 2019 Champion Chase. It would be daft to suggest that he is improving at nine years of age, however, the master of Ditcheat has a rare gift for keeping those in his care at the very top level for longer, and Politologue is certainly showing no signs of waning at present.
The hardy son of Poliglote could take some pegging back if granted an uncontested lead and jumping fluently throughout. Therefore he is undoubtedly a huge player in this intriguing contest.
Greaneteen is an up-and-coming six-year-old who landed the Grade 2 Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter on his seasonal reappearance, a victory that has earned him this shot at Grade 1 success on just his sixth outing over fences.
Paul Nicholls' progressive french-bred won his first three outings over fences last season and was sent off a well supported 5/1 chance for the Grand Annual at the Cheltenham Festival in March, where he was far from disgraced in placing fourth under 11-07.
That was clearly a fine effort given his relative lack of experience and his success at Exeter represented another big step forwards. The Great Pretender gelding is undoubtedly progressing with each and every start and clearly connections feel that he is ready for this challenge, which is a ringing endorsement given Paul Nicholls' fine record in the race.
Greaneteen is currently rated 11lbs inferior to stablemate Politologue and 14lbs inferior to Altior. However, he has a good profile for this race as a second season chaser and he could easily continue his steep upward curve.
Rogue Vif was an above average novice chaser last season, landing the Grade 2 Kingmaker Novices' Chase at Warwick before placing third in the Grade 1 Arkle Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
Harry Whittington's exciting six-year-old confirmed that he was more than a mere handicapper when cantering to a facile seven-and-a-half-lengths success in competitive handicap company at Cheltenham's Showcase Meetings in October, in the very same contest that the formerly high-class Fox Norton plundered (2016) prior to placing second in both the Champion Chase and Tingle Creek in 2017.
That clearly represented a significant step forwards and connections were keen to test their charge's mettle in the Grade 2 Shloer Chase at Cheltenham last month, but were forced to pull stumps on account of the soft ground.
Clearly that sets alarm bells ringing given the forecast rain this weekend, as Harry Whittington has clearly stated that Rouge Vif is a far superior horse on better ground, which means that his participation on Saturday hangs in the balance.
Raised 8lbs to a mark of 164 following his October success, the scopey son of Sageburg only has 5lbs to find with Politologue and 8lbs to find with Altior on official ratings. Therefore, with further progression highly likely, he could give his established rivals something to think about if the rain stays away.
Brewin'upastorm failed to live up to expectations as a novice in spite of a promising debut success at Carlisle, when beating two subsequent Grade 2 scorers and the 136 rated Good Boy Bobby with a performance that suggested he may take high rank during the spring.
Olly Murphy's seven-year-old blundered and unseated Richard Johnson at fourth last fence in the Arkle this spring, and he could only place sixth of six, beaten 20 lengths, behind Imperial Aura in the Listed Colin Parker Memorial Chase at Carlisle on seasonal reappearance last month.
Brewin'upastorm had won first time out in each of his three previous campaigns under rules, therefore it's unlikely that fitness was to blame at Carlisle. While the forecast rain is also a cause for concern as 4 of his 5 career victories to date, including his promising point-to-point success, came on decent ground. Therefore he makes little appeal at present.
Castlegrace Paddy is an experienced chaser who signed off last season with a Grade 2 success in the Webster Cup at Navan, and he confirmed that to be no fluke when defeating Grade 1 winning chase A Plus Tard on his seasonal reappearance in the Grade 2 Fortria Chase at the same track four-weeks-ago.
Significant rainfall would certainly play to his strengths as all 6 of his previous career victories have been achieved on ground officially described as soft or slower, and connections surely wouldn't make this trip unless they felt it was worthwhile, especially jockey Brian Cooper.
Lightly raced for his age, Castlegrace Paddy has 18lbs to find with Altior and 15lbs to find with Politologue, which gives you an idea of the task that he faces. However, he would be dangerous to rule out given that he has fitness on his side and may still be progressing.
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Tingle Creek Tips
If Altior returns to his brilliant best then the rest are playing for second. However, he lost his unbeaten status on his seasonal reappearance last term and although connections are adamant that he is much fitter this year, you do have to wonder how he will fare if the ground becomes very testing. His inactivity in recent seasons, and indeed his series of niggles, suggests that he may now be beginning to show the battle scars of a glittering career at the highest level, therefore he may be worth opposing at prohibitive odds.
Greaneteen is a fascinating contender given that he is 4-5 over fences and arrives with the benefit of a run. A quick two miles should suit him well and the stiff uphill finish will bring his stamina into play, therefore he could easily take another big step forwards.
Rouge Vif is hugely promising and would certainly enter calculations if the rain stays away. However, marginal preference is for POLITOLOGUE, who is rock solid in comparison to others. Paul Nicholls knows exactly what it takes to land this prestigious prize and will have the talented grey spot on for this assignment. His class is in no doubt as the reigning champion chaser and he is a previous winner of this Grade 1 contest, therefore we know that he is capable of showing his best form around Sandown. We also know that he jumps and stays very well, which are important assets in this race, and he will likely stay out trouble at the head of affairs. While any rainfall will only further aid his prospects.
Tingle Creek Entries
- Rouge Vif
- Castlegrace Paddy