A chilly start to December brings us to Sandown where racing is expected to go ahead. The Tingle Creek is a traditional early-season pointer towards the Champion Chase and a look through the honour roll highlights some stars of the sport, the horses listed below and special mention to Paul Nicholls with nine wins in the past 17 years. Handy record that...
Taking a magnifying glass to the small, but select, field is aspiring journo Adam Crooks, @acrooks95.
Betfair Tingle Creek Chase
Grade 1, £150,000, approximately Two Miles (1m7f119y)
1500 local, 0200 AEDT
The Tingle Creek, one of the significant two mile races of the season, is here again. Won by legends of the past such as Desert Orchid, Master Minded and Kauto Star, it is one of the early season highlights.
This season's renewal is a slightly disappointing one, due to circumstances beyond anyone's control. Firstly the legend Sprinter Sacre, a past winner and dual Champion Chase winner, was unfortunately retired due to injury a couple of weeks back. On the same day he was retired, stablemate and loveable grey Simonsig tragically lost his life in the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham. The winner of that race, Fox Norton, sustained a nasty cut and is out until the new year. And then there is the case of Douvan. Last year's star novice, unbeaten for Willie Mullins, was subject to an apparent gamble on Tuesday morning, his odds for this race going from 5/1 into 4/7 in a matter of hours. This dramatic odds changing suggested that Mullins was ready to unleash him on Saturday. However, come Thursday morning the declarations were out, and hi-ho, Douvan was out. Antepost punters were left seething, but surely experienced punters are well aware of the antepost risk?
With those absentees, it has left a small but select field of six to run.
Current favourite is Un De Sceaux, the Willie Mullins representative. Having never won the Tingle Creek, Mullins will be hoping Un De Sceaux can add this race to his glistening CV. And the exuberant front runner has every chance to do so. Finding only the mighty Sprinter Sacre too good in the Queen Mother at Cheltenham, a shuddering error three out in the Celebration Chase over course and distance ended any chance of turning the tables on Sprinter Sacre. He was then campaigned in France over hurdles and longer trips, winning over 2m 5f and then failing to stay 3m 1f on his last outing. Also the ground is a big factor for Un De Sceaux. Seemingly at his brilliant best with plenty of give in the ground, it doesn't look likely to be that bad on Saturday. Also it is his first run of the season, and the previous two seasons he has fell on his first run back. All in all, 13/8 is very short and I am happy to look elsewhere.
Gary Moore trains the next two in the market, in the shape of Ar Mad and Sire De Grugy.
Ar Mad is returning from a nasty injury suffered 294 days ago. Well fancied for the Arkle at Cheltenham before the injury, he is another exuberant front runner. He has won twice over the Tingle Creek course and distance, on both occasions jumping superbly. His toughest test so far was at Kempton in the Grade 2 Wayward Lad, where he made most, got headed, then rallied and got back up to beat Vaniteux. It was a likeable performance from Ar Mad and it was such a shame he never made it to the big festivals. This is a hot contest to pitch back up in, and at around the 7/2 mark I am happy to leave him alone on this occasion.
Sire De Grugy attempts to become only the second horse to win this Grade 1 three times (won 2013 and 2015), and bounced back to form last time out winning an Ascot handicap off top weight. Whilst that was a good performance, the last three times he has come up against Un De Sceaux he has been well beaten, and at the age of ten I doubt there is any improvement left in him.
So that leaves my selection for the race, God's Own. A non-stayer over 2m 5f last time out, the drop back in trip is not an issue and with fitness on side, a huge run is on the cards. I see the race panning out with Un De Sceaux and Ar Mad tearing off in front taking each other on, and I believe they were will tire on their first runs back, leaving Gods Own to pick up the pieces for Adrian Heskin and Tom George.
Vibrato Valtat has an entry for Paul Nicholls but will surely be outclassed, and Tom George's other entry Sir Valentino will surely find this Grade 1 test too much.
So there we go, question marks over the front three in the market have left me siding with God's Own, which at 5/1 (in places) looks a tasty price.