Tingle Creek Chase – Saturday 5th December 2015 – 15:00 Sandown
Saturday see’s the season’s first serious Grade One chase over two miles, in the form of the Betfair sponsored Tingle Creek chase at Sandown Park.
The race was shaken up late on Wednesday, when Willie Mullins confirmed the withdrawal of star chaser Un De Sceaux. Although his withdrawal somewhat detracts from the quality of the race on Saturday, it does make it much more interesting betting proposition.
Savello is now a non-runner too but it still leaves us with a quality field of eight going to post, assuming we have no further withdrawals.
Market leader is now the Paul Nicholls trained Vibrato Valtat. Currently on offer at 7/4. A second season chaser, he had a solid novice season. He finished 4th in the Arkle to the aforementioned Un De Sceaux. He was then sent off 9/4 favourite for the 2 ½ mile novice chase at the Aintree festival. This time he had to settle for 2nd place, behind another Irish raider in the form of Gordon Elliotts Clarcam. He finished the season in the Celebration Chase over Saturdays course and distance. This time he finished a modest 4th. The race yet again went to an Irish trained horse, Special Tiara.
Vibrato, was some 15 lengths behind him that day, he was also 5 lengths behind stablemate Mr Mole. Interestingly both special Tiara and Mr Mole re-oppose on Saturday. Vibrato Valtat started this season with a smooth success in the Grade 2 Haldon Gold Cup. It could be, as a six year old he has improved over the summer but the opposition were modest and most of them had to give him weight. Factor in that Vibrato Valtat has been beaten every time he has stepped in Grade One company, I would be happy to take him on at the forecast price.
Second in the market at 3/1 is Simonsig. For me he is the most fascinating runner in the race. Assuming he makes it to post, he will have to be taken very seriously. As a novice hurdler he was an impressive winner of the 2012 Neptune Hurdle at Cheltenham. Winning as easily as he pleased by 7 lengths ahead of Felix Yonger, a horse that is now himself a Grade One chase winner over 2 miles. Then came his novice chase career, where he was unbeaten, culminating in winning the Arkle. After that, big things were expected of the horse, he was even spoken about as a serious King George contender. Unfortunately injury struck, a splint problem and following complications have kept him out for nearly two years.
It is testament to the quality of the horse that connections have persevered with him and taken their time in getting him back to full health. He made his belated reappearance in the 2 ½ mile Betfred Hurdle at Aintree. Travelling keenly, which he often does, he still travelled strongly into the race, still on the bridle following the final hurdle, he ran out of gas and was beaten by stablemate and former Gold Cup winner Bobs Worth. With this run under his belt, the drop back to two miles not testing his stamina as much, and the fact he is unbeaten over fences, he will be where my hard earned cash will be going in the race. He was also described by his trainer as the only horse who could give a peak Sprinter Sacre a good race.
Next in is former Queen Mother Champion chase winner, Sire de Grugy, at 11/2. Two seasons ago it looked like he had the world at his feet. In the 13/14 season he won 6 of his 7 races, which included 4 Grade Ones, one of them being the Tingle Creek. Many thought he would take the 2 mile division in his stride the following season, but for one reason or another, the yard could not quite get him right. He looked a shadow of himself, was jumping poorly, picking up niggling injuries and never really looked like regaining his Champion Chase crown.
He started this season in the Haldon Cup won by Vibrato Valtat. He made a few errors, but was still in contention two fences out before weakening and finishing in his own time. Since that race, trainer George Moore claims that Sire de Grugy is back to his best in training. If that was right, he would have a serious chance on taking Saturdays race, however you would be taking that on trust, he hasn’t shown anything positive on a racecourse for a long time now. Until he showed some of his old sparkle had returned, I would struggle to back him.
On his day, Special Tiara, a 6/1 shot, has the form to figure. The only Irish raider in the field, he won over course and distance in last season’s Celebration Chase with Saturdays challengers Vibrato Valtat, Mr Mole and Somersby all behind him. A good horse, he always seems to run his race and on top of his Grade One victory last season, he was only beaten less than 3 lengths by Dodging Bullets in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, splitting Somersby in 2nd and Sire De Grugy in 4th. Before the withdrawal of Un De Sceaux, bookmakers had reported a steady trickle of money for Henry De Bromheads charge, so it will be interesting to see how he goes on Saturday. Although no superstar, I couldn’t put people off backing him.
Josses Hill, another runner for Nicky Henderson makes his season reappearance in the Tingle Creek. A good novice hurdler, he finished second to superstar Vautour in the Supreme Novice and then he was sent straight over fences for a novice chasing campaign last season. He put in some good displays including 3rd in Un De Sceaux’s Arkle. However, he never really looked the most fluent of jumpers and definitely didn’t look particularly strong in the finish when always seeming in contention to win races. Again, he is a relatively young horse, so open to improvement, but I think he would have had to have improved a lot over the summer if he were to test the main protagonists here.
Paul Nicholls’ second runner is 12/1 shot Mr Mole. A quirky sort, he will more than likely make the pace and front run. Although winning a Grade 2 chase a novice, he has generally struggled at the top table. He has contested a host of good races, but was comprehensively beaten in both last year’s Queen Mother at Cheltenham and was over 9 lengths behind Special Tiara over course and distance here. On his seasonal reappearance at Cheltenham, he travelled well, but weakened badly finishing well beaten and behind both Somersby and Savello in the race won by the rejuvenated Sprinter Sacre. On Saturday, half way around, maybe further, he may well be going as well as anything else in the race but come the business end of the race I struggle to see him involved in the finish.
Another 12/1 priced horse is the evergreen Somersby. Over the years, this horse has raced against some of the best chasers of our time, Kauto Star, Masterminded, Sizing Europe and the like. Ultra consistent, he has been placed 26 times in 37 races. The perennial bridesmaid, more often than not he has struggled to win many big races. He did deservedly win a Grade One race back in 2012 and at the age of 11, he is not going to be improving. He did however get closest to Sprinter Sacre on his seasonal reappearance and it would be great to him run into a place.
Outside of the field at 25/1 is the Colin Tizzard trained First Intention. Although arriving for one of the most in form trainers, it is unlikely he will have the class to win in this race. A consistent performer he rarely runs a bad race, but rarely wins too. On his seasonal reappearance he was 4 lengths behind Vibrato Valtat giving him 4lbs, so some may argue the price difference between them is too big. However Vibrato won comfortably that day and just had to be pushed out to win, so given the further improvement in Saturdays favourite, it is hard to see him turning the tables. He has place claims at best.
Back Simonsig at a best price of 10/3 with Coral
Back Somersby each way at a best price of 14/1 with Stan James