It’s one of the biggest days’ in the National Hunt season today with top-class action up and down the country but the main focus will be on Sandown’s delicious-looking seven-race card, where the feature race of the day, the Grade One Tingle Creek Chase, at 14.55pm, over two miles at Sandown takes centre stage. It will be interesting to see how the bookmakers react to the winners/placed horses with their prices for the respective events in the Cheltenham market post-race today, as this two-day fixture has predominantly been a good guide as to what we might expect come Cheltenham in March. 

For instance, not only is the Tingle Creek Chase theoretically an important role in the market movers aspect but so too are the supporting races, given this day last year produced two subsequent Cheltenham Festival winners. This year’s fixture is no exception and what better way to start than the main dish itself, the Tingle Creek Chase, which has only attracted six runners but it is not short of quality, as it is stacked with four Grade One winners, who go in search of more top-level success with a view to potentially competing in the Champion Chase. 

Shishkin makes his eagerly-awaited return to action and is currently the 11/10 favourite. A current 4/1 chance for the Champion Chase in March, Nicky Henderson’s star two-mile chaser was pulled up on that corresponding race at the Cheltenham Festival last year when sent off 5/6 favourite to confirm Clarence House form with Energumene as the pair provided a thrilling finish at the Berkshire Venue but he ultimately never went a yard on the ground at Cheltenham and was reported to have suffered from a ‘rare bone condition.’ 

If you can draw a line through that performance, the 4/1 on offer for next year’s race could look rather big for Shishkin if he can make a successful return here, especially when you take into account what he has already achieved in his career. He does, however, seem far from bombproof now though and will have to be at his very best to beat last year’s winner Greaneteen, who made a successful return at Exeter off top-weight, but in addition the former is still rated five-pounds clear of that rival and beat him comfortably by ten-lengths at Kempton in the Desert Orchid Chase. I expect him to confirm that form here despite his absence but from a value perspective, the Alan King EDWARDSTONE, who’s currently 16/1 for the Champion Chase in March, makes a lot of sense and could see his price crash if able to run a big race on his return here. 

Yes, he has quite a bit to find with Shishkin on collateral ratings (fifteen-pounds) and he was expected to be arriving here with a run under his belt before being declared non-runner at Cheltenham and Ascot due to fast ground, but he won over course-and-distance on this card last year and while he was behind Genteman De Mee at Aintree, he was probably feeling the effects of a hard but successful season. He should get the ideal set-up, goes well fresh and last season’s Arkle winner, who’s already a two-time Grade One winner in this sphere, is 7/1 for today’s race and is one to monitor closely here. If you fancy him for the Champion Chase in March, I’d say now is the time to be backing him for that race as I cannot see the 16/1 lasting much longer, especially if he can finish in the first three here. The bookmakers have underestimated his chances.

Champion Chase

Elsewhere on the card, Gary Moore’s AUTHORISED SPEED, who is a warm favourite to land the Brian Giles Memorial 'National Hunt' Novices' Hurdle at 12.00pm, could see his price shorten for one of the Novice’ events at Cheltenham if able to justify favouritism. This horse fared best of the British in the Champion Bumper when fifth 20 to Facile Vega and made his hurdles debut in an extended two-miles-three-furlong contest at Lingfield after eight months off and eased to a fifteen-length success under Jamie Moore. 

That tidy performance earned him quotes of 33/1 for both the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle respectively but upon reflection of that easy success and Willie Mullins’ expected to go down the two-mile division with Facile Vega, I can envisage this son of Presenting being targeted at the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle instead but this is far from confirmed at this early stage as Gary Moore has stated that he’s playing his cards close to his chest. He drops in trip to two-miles but the soft ground will suit and although his price for today’s is far from backable unless he’s in your multiples, the 33/1 for each of the races formerly-mentioned at Cheltenham will shorten, especially if he wins this easily, which is highly likely with more to come. 

Authorised Speed
Supreme Novices Hurdle
Authorised Speed
Ballymore Novices Hurdle

Later on, in the Betfair Daily Rewards Handicap Hurdle at 14.20pm, the Harry Fry-trained LOVE ENVOI makes her handicap debut and looks a good bet at 7/4 which is generally on offer. She has won six of her seven starts and ran a very tidy race when runner-up in a Grade One in Ireland on her final start of the campaign behind the exciting Brandy Love. She won a Grade Two at this course in February and then claimed another victory at that same level next time at the Cheltenham Festival. 

An opening handicap debut mark of 139 is seemingly lenient and she gets her favoured soft ground too so this highly-talented six-year-old is strongly fancied to make another successful reappearance. A current 10/1 chance for the Mares Hurdle in March, if she can pass this test with flying colours, her price is likely to shorten a couple of points, though bear in mind she will need conditions to materialise into the ‘soft or worse category’ to be seen at her best at Cheltenham. 

If you enjoyed reading this piece, make sure to tune in later this afternoon, where I’ll be providing a recap on some of today’s results at Sandown and look at some of the early market movers for the Cheltenham Festival. 

Love Envoi
Mares Hurdle