Saturday’s Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown could potentially be one of the races of the season if all the intended runners take up the engagement to run.
The big event of the weekend gets underway at 3.00pm as the afternoon’s sixth race at the Esher venue with the likes of Un De Sceaux, Simonsig, Vibrato Valtat and Sire De Grugy all possible contestants to face the judge.
The fantastic two-mile contest is often a strong pointer to the winner of the Champion Chase at Cheltenham come March, with the latest winner Dodging Bullets winning this race twelve months ago enroute to Cheltenham Glory; while numerous past champions have also won this race before taking the big race at the Festival.
Willie Mullins’ Un De Sceaux
) has been installed as the ante-post favourite for the top-class contest, and it isn’t hard to see why.
The Denham Red gelding has only once tasted defeat, and that came when he fell on his chase debut last term at Thurles when he came to grief despite being a mile clear of his field. It was little more than a blip for the Mullins star, and he came out of that race to reel off a four-timer of wins, including in the Arkle Chase at the Cheltenham Festival and then taking the Ryanair Novice Chase at Punchestown the following month.
Un De Sceaux could make his return to action at Sandown on Saturday, and Willie Mullins' charge will prove a tough nut to crack.
This would be a seasonal debut for Un De Sceaux, and if taking his chance he would face some formidable opposition stepping out of the novice ranks for the first time against some seasoned campaigners. He may not get things his own way up front either, with the possible presence of fellow trailblazers Mr Mole and Special Tiara – who won the Celebration Chase here in April – both potential opponents.
The brilliant Arkle winner, who saw off another potential opponent in Gods Own to land that contest has limbered up with a racecourse spin around Thurles last week, and if taking his chance looks sure to go well. News that Sprinter Sacre will miss Saturday’s race makes his task that little bit easier, and he could prove hard to beat if at his exuberant best on his first outing of the season.
Recent Haldon Gold Cup winner Vibrato Valtat
) turned in a most impressive performance to score at Exeter on his reappearance, and Paul Nicholls’ grey looked a much stronger horse than he did when finishing fourth to In De Sceaux in the Arkle at Cheltenham, and he possibly just failed to stay next time at Aintree when beaten by Clarcam in the Manifesto Novices’ Chase.
There were no apparent excuses though for his defeat behind Special Tiara here in the Celebration Chase, finishing a well-beaten fourth to that rival and Sprinter Sacre who finished runner-up.
Having taken advantage of an out-of-sorts Sire De Grugy and Gods Own at Exeter, he comes here full of confidence and the strong-travelling Voix Du Nord gelding can get involved, although it is a shade worrying that he hasn’t been seen at his best off a strong gallop in the past as was the case when Un De Sceaux and Special Tiara set off in front to win their respective races.
Vibrato Valtat could be one of Un De Sceaux's possible opponents in the Tingle Creek. SIMONSIG
) looked sure to take high order amongst the two-mile chase division when winning the 2013 Arkle Chase in fine style despite making a series of jumping errors.
However, the dashing grey Fair Mix gelding wasn’t seen out again for more than two years after suffering a series of setbacks that curtailed his career until his return to action earlier in the month at Aintree when he contested the Betfred Hurdle.
Travelling well under Barry Geraghty, he ran with plenty of zest and jumped his hurdles fast and fluently, but couldn’t quite get the better of stablemate Bobs Worth who seemed to relish the return to hurdles having lost his way over fences the previous season.
Not given a hard time at the business end, it was a pleasing return to action for the grey, who has subsequently been the object of some glowing reports out of Seven Barrows; like Simonsig and Vibrato Valtat, he steps out of novice company now but if back to the sort of form that saw him win the Arkle despite making a series of errors, he looks the main threat to Un De Sceaux.
Simonsig can built on his reappearance over hurdles, and the 2013 Arkle winner can post a big effort.
2014 Champion Chase winner Sire De Grugy
) has been out of sorts for some time now over the larger obstacles, with his last win coming in a minor event at Chepstow back in February ahead of his title defence where he finished a well-beaten fourth behind Dodging Bullets.
A faller at Aintree on his final start last term, Gary Moore’s charge was never travelling or jumping when failing to beat a rival home in the Haldon Gold Cup, and there was talk of a return to hurdles for the former champion in a bid to restore shattered confidence.
Injury played a large part in his disappointing season last term, but the My Risk gelding will have to show more than he did on his return at Exeter , although a return to Sandown where he is unbeaten over fences in three runs at the Esher track – including in this race two years ago - could spark a revival in his fortunes if back to his best.
Sire De Grugy wasn't at his best last term, but could bounce back and is 3-3 at Sandown. Special Tiara
) enjoyed a fruitful season last term, benefitting from front running tactics to win the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton and ran a cracker in the Champion Chase when third to Dodging Bullets under similar tactics.
That was followed up with a six length defeat of Sprinter Sacre in the Celebration Chase here in April, and he should come on for the run behind Hidden Cyclone in the Fortria Chase at Navan on his seasonal return.
He’ll face stiff opposition for the lead here though with fellow front-runners Un De Sceaux and Mr Mole likely to take him on for the front-running role; nevertheless, he is an interesting runner who cou