It’s all about Sandown Park down in Surrey and the Tingle Creek Chase for Triple G this weekend – or as the marketing team there would have it the Betfair Tingle Creek Christmas Festival Chase Day.
I have said it before and I will say it again I love this day, proper racing with proper race fans, it really is one of my favourite meetings of the year. I am told that the good folk of Sandown Park are transforming the Esher Hall into a Bavarian Beer Hall this year; what more could you want?
The usual suspects of Mr Wilson, Mr Griffiths and I (Mr O’Leary missing due to a family wedding – how inconsiderate) are up and at ‘em early doors so the tips for the seven races are going up in plenty of time; the weather forecast is on the chilly side and the going good to soft. The beasts that will be burdened with the Triple G cash on the day will be as follows:
Racing gets underway at 12.05 with the Novices Hurdle Race over two miles. The race has cut-up a bit and a number that I had on the shortlist aren’t here. One that is here is Get Out The Gate. The 4YO trotted up in a point-to-point before moving to the Nicholls yard and has to be open too any amount of improvement now racing under rules for the master of Ditcheat. I am on at 7-2 in the hope they have uncovered another potential superstar – you never know.
The Paddock Mares Handicap Hurdle over 2m4f follows at 12.40. I planned to back Lady Karina for this but she isn’t coming. Whatduhavtoget has to give weight all round and looks up against it though the yard is in form. The Wicket Chicken was one I considered as a possible danger having put together a string of decent efforts through the spring and summer. Underfoot conditions though may not be ideal plus the stable hasn’t had a winner in over a month. All My Love has been kept busy running on the flat through the summer and put in two good efforts earlier on the year over the sticks under similar conditions but the Sly stable is out of form as well. Harry Fry drops Secret Door in class a little and the six-year-old is one with form on softer going and the stable has had a few winners of late. Lightly raced there may be more to come from this mare and I am on at 11-2 in a tricky heat.
At 1.10 we have the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle (Qualifier) over just shy of three miles. Hello George rarely runs a bad race but may be high enough in the ratings having never won off higher than 126. Terry The Fish and Beat That are others that could do with a little leniency from the handicapper. Connetable from the Nicholls yard won a Listed heat over two-miles here back in 2016 and having out in two average runs over too far in two of his last three starts has dropped to an OR that should be workable. The five-year-old is the pick in a tricky heat at 6-1.
At 1.45 they will line-up for the Grade One Henry VIII Novices’ Chase over the two-miles. Won last year by Altior some of the best 2m novice chasers are aimed at this each year and this year is no exception. Dan Skelton is reportedly looking forward to seeing G.2 Arkle Trial winner North Hill Harvey put his unbeaten record over fences on the line. Speaking on At The Races' On The Line programme on Monday evening, the trainer said: "He goes to Sandown for the Henry VIII and I think he'll be very effective round that track.” Nicky Henderson sends Brian Power, currently 2nd favourite for the Arkle in March, and the six-year-old is the favourite. He could be worth taking on though and Finians Oscar and Sceau Royal are two others of interest with preference for Finians Oscar who was cut markedly for the Arkle following his win at Cheltenham last month. The Colin Tazzard trained 5yo has only been beaten once when short-headed in the G1 Ireland Champion Novice Hurdle at Punchestown – won the G.1 Tolworth Hurdle here last season. Two for two over the bigger obstacles he is relatively lightly raced and hopefully improvement remains. If he is to play a roll at the Festival this is the sort of heat he needs to be winning. I am on in the hope he can turnover the jolly at 2-1.
Sandwiched between the two Grade Ones is the Listed December Handicap Hurdle at 2.20. William H Bonney has been campaigned at a higher level than this, fifth in the Grade Three Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham and the 6yo has run well without winning. All three wins have come on softer going so conditions are fine. I have taken 9-2. Nicky Henderson sends Jenkins who is relatively unexposed with only six starts to date. Seventh in the Greatwood behind William H Bonney, all his wins to date have been on decent ground and he appeared to get bogged down on the heavier going that day. Fidux has a couple of Juvenile Hurdle victories to his name but I can’t see him winning this. Crossed My Mind did just that off a low weight but is not for me.
The big one the Grade One Tingle Creek Chase is due off at 2.55. It’s been the usual case of will they won’t they in the run-up to the big one with Altior, Douvan and Un De Sceaux to name but three all possibly coming. Sadly we discovered Altior wouldn’t be here due to a wind problem a while back and as ever with the Mullins yard no-one seemed to know who they would send across the Irish Sea. Well he hasn’t sent either Douvan or Un De Sceaux!!!! With all the absentees Fox Norton has become jolly almost by default. In fairness the seven-year-old aint done a lot wrong and won the G.2 Shloer Chase as a warm-up in fine style. Narrowly beaten by Special Tiara in the Queen Mother Champion Chase last season before striking Grade One gold at both Aintree and Punchestown the 4-6 says all you need to know - he should win comfortably. Colin Tizzard said earlier this week “Fox Norton is in good form and obviously he's a lovely horse. We've had no hiccups with him since Cheltenham and we're very happy with him." Of the others Paul Nicholls believes Politologue has all the right attributes needed to win after comparing him to dual winner Twist Magic last week. The six-year-old will bid to back up his victory in the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter last month and give the Ditcheat handler his 10th success in the Grade One contest. Ar Mad and Sir Valentino go again having finished fourth and fifth respectively last year.
Racing finishes with the lucky last at 3.30 the London National Handicap Steeple Chase over a marathon three miles and five furlongs. Durham National winner Audacious Plan has headed the market in the build-up but isn’t here. Fletchers Flyer has a chance but has been pulled-up on his last two starts which has to be a bit of a concern. Sugar Baron will stay and has gone well here in the past, seventh in the G.3 bet365 Gold Cup Handicap Chase back in April over C&D beaten only 2½ lengths (The Young Master 9th). Second at Cheltenham in an amateurs race last month he was staying on up the hill over 3m1f, that will have blown away the cobwebs and the step back up in trip today is seen as a positive as is Nico de Boinville returning to the saddle. I have the 5-1.