It has been an action-packed National Hunt season to date, but things are all set to take an even more mouth-watering turn at Sandown on Saturday with the latest renewal of the Grade 1 Tingle Creek Chase.
In truth, this pre-Christmas jaunt was set to be a fascinating encounter between the ante post favourites Un de Sceaux and Sprinter Sacre, but with both being pulled out the field has trimmed to eight. The good news is that bookies are still paying out on top three places for each way punts, and there is still enough value to be had despite that pair’s defection.
Sprinter Sacre’s trainer Nicky Henderson removed his charge from the line up after deciding that conditions were unsuitable, while Un De Sceaux’s chief Willie Mullins told the Racing Post that “Unfortunately Un De Sceaux will not run this weekend. He has been a little flat in himself the last two days.”
Punters have thus been deprived of a wondrous battle between the glittering duo, but surely their head-to-head battle will come at some point this season. Instead, let’s focus on the runners we do have to work with, and arrow in on a new 9/4 favourite that looks justified at the mark, and a grand old duke who has plenty left in the tank and at 7/1 offers a decent each way shout.
Following the removal of Un De Sceaux and Sprinter Sacre, the head of the market has gone to Vibrato Valtat; and while it is a position achieved through default this is a horse with serious chops.
Being trained by Paul Nicholls is always a tick in the ‘potential winner’ box, and having triumphed in a previous Grade 1 contest here – Vibrato Valtat destroyed the field in the Henry VII – we can tick that course form box too. His win in the Haldon Gold Cup earlier this season confirmed his status as one to watch.
With conditions looking likely to suit, the 9/4 price could shorten in the coming days so now is your time to pull the trigger on Vibrato Valtat.
Intriguing. That’s the word to describe Sire de Grugy’s hopes in this one. Priced at 7/1 you might be forgiven for thinking this is an also-ran rather than a must-back, but there is enough quality here to represent a threat to Vibrato Valtat, Special Tiara et al.
Firstly, Sire de Grugy won here back in 2013, which is clearly a decent stretch ago but highlights that the class and the engine to win this challenging renewal in often unrelenting conditions is there.
He won in a Grade 1 jaunt by a cool eleven lengths in more recent times, and a lovely run at Chepstow prior to the Champion Chase was eye-catching. He was left eating Vibrato’s Valtat’s dust in the Haldon Gold Cup earlier this year, but that could be attributed to a jumping error rather than a lack of steam.
Punters love a proven winner, and with the absence of the two favourites Sire de Grugy offers almost unparalleled pedigree in this field.