National Hunt racecourses rely heavily on big household names to draw in the crowds: this weekend’s Betfair Tingle Creek renewal at Sandown is certainly no exception.
The 2 mile Grade One chase superstar, Altior, is set to make his seasonal bow in what should be a relative procession for the hugely talented Nicky Henderson trained 8 year old. We’ll take a look at Altior and assess the chances of the other challenges. However, this looks like one way traffic...
He looked beaten three out in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at The Festival earlier this year. Whilst Min was cantering and looked to lay down a serious challenge, Nico De Boinville was clearly labouring on Altior. But as five contenders jumped the last, it was Altior who switched to the inside to produce the goods and subsequently power home to score by 7 lengths over the almost hapless Min.
It was a devastating performance and one of the most convincing Champion Chase wins in recent times. How a horse could come back when looking so flatfooted in such a competitive race as The Champion Chase certainly underlines his talent and power as a steeplechaser.
It’s difficult to find flaws in him. In the Champion Chase he was probably hitting a flat spot nearing three out and just needed nudging along to stay with the pack. He jumps with a calm efficiency and his finishing speed is nothing short of deadly. Although he gives followers heart flutters with his inconsistent travelling speed, the only slight question mark would have been the trainer’s recent form, with Might Bite’s flop in The Betfair Chase and Rather Be failing to fire in the Bet Victor at Cheltenham last month.
However, Henderson’s other ace in the pack Buveur D’Air more than established the credentials of Seven Barrows with a pulverising win over Samcro in The Fighting Fifth last weekend. It’s all systems go for the Henderson team.
Value in the market is predictably tight with no firm daring to take on Altior. Betfair best with 8/11.
Widely perceived as a smart horse over hurdles, the Alan King trained Sceau Royal impressively rose through the novice ranks last season, most noticeably crushing a decent field including Brain Power and Finian’s Oscar in last year’s Henry VIII Novices Chase at Sandown. However, injury curtailed any lucrative spring targets.
His seasonal reappearance at Cheltenham last month was impressive for a first run in nearly 300 days and he should improve for that run. A small worry might be his tendency to jump to the left which would be a factor of course at Sandown being right handed. Nevertheless, he is the one most likely to give connections of Altior something to think about.
UN DE SCEAUX
It’s very hard to know when it is time to right off this faithful servant of the Willie Mullins team. It certainly looked like game over when he was beaten in the Ryanair Chase at The Festival last March when highly fancied. However, he experienced a swansong in his final two races late in the spring with two very impressive wins in Ireland including a 3 length defeat of Douvan in the Boylesports Champion Chase at Punchestown.
The ability is clearly still there despite his advancing years (10 now), and if allowed to dominate in bottomless ground, he can be lethal. An each way chance for sure but the odds are prohibitive at 5/1 (William Hill, Betfred) best and it has to be noted that Willie Mullins’ last minute defections have burnt many a finger in the past. Bet with caution therefore.
Nevertheless, the recent rain has to weigh in Un De Sceaux’s favour and if he is allowed to take a considerable lead in the opening stages, he may well ask Altior to test that finishing speed more earnestly than he might like. Interesting entry...if he turns up.
Saint Calvados comes into the reckoning on the back of his Grade 3 win over in Ireland where it looked like he had the Arkle winner Footpad in plenty of trouble. However, Footpad’s fall at the last when looking to challenge leaves an unclear picture although Saint Calvados did finish impressively. Each way claims 11/2 Bet Victor, Paddy Power.
Willie Mullins has two other entries. Great Field (10/1 Betfred) has won consistently in Ireland but this is a major step up in class whilst Min is a doubtful runner.
It will be a major shock if Altior doesn’t win this. This is a horse who has won 14 times on the bounce, including a Supreme Novices Hurdle, an Arkle and Champion Chase. He’s also three out of three at Sandown of course and always run well fresh as the very classy Politologue found out at Newbury last season, where he was found wanting despite the advantage in fitness.
It will be interesting to see how much Saint Calvados improves from his fantastic performance against Footpad and Un De Sceaux will cause problems if he is allowed to dictate. It’s going to be a fascinating race for sure.
Please note all odds are correct at the time of publishing (12:30 5th December 2018) and are subject to change