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The Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown on Saturday is always a tremendous spectacle. The Ferraris and Porsches of the steeplechasing world do battle over the minimum distance at one of the country’s toughest jumping tracks. It will be a battle royal. However, only the good Dr Pangloss (or Sandown’s PR man) would pretend that this contest has the class of recent renewals.
Rather like the contemporary TV fetish, Saturday’s race is searching for a star. Three time Queen Mother Champion Chase champ and double Tingle Creek winner Moscow Flyer does not travel from Ireland. Nor does his recent Punchestown conqueror Rathgar Beau. Azertyuiop and Well Chief are injured and out for the season.
Punters love to latch onto young pretenders and Kauto Star fits the bill. He was last year’s Arkle favourite for most of the season before being injured in his prep race. But to back him as a short-priced favourite is a triumph of hope and expectation over actual achievement. His best win was in a Class C novice chase and the trends say that he simply isn’t good enough to win a Tingle Creek. All of the last ten winners had scored in Grade 1 company.
Sticking with the horses with form in the book Ashley Brook looks the likeliest winner. In the Haldon Gold Cup (the race that saw Best Mate’s sad demise) he was behind both Kauto Star and Monkerhostin. But he was giving weight away and would surely have come closer if he hadn’t made a terrible mistake at the eighth fence. He could also have won the Arkle last year but for a howler at the last. His jumping rather than Saturday’s opposition is the biggest worry.
In a typically competitive William Hill Handicap Hurdle Victram looks a standout bet. This Irish raider won two highly competitive flat handicaps but gets into this off a hurdles rating of 112. If he comes close to translating that flat form to the sticks he is easily good enough for a place and should win. In the Sodexho Prestige Henry VIII Novices Chase Hoo La Baloo can live up to his hype, though, if he wins, he may be flattered by a generous weight-for-age allowance.
2:05 Sandown Hoo La Baloo (win)
2:35 Sandown Ashley Brook (win)
3:10 Sandown Victram (win)