15:00 Sandown – Tingle Creek Chase
Seen by many as a trial for the Champion Chase at March’s Cheltenham Festival but that seems ridiculously unfair. This prestigious and illustrious race should be seen as a Grade 1 in its own right. Notorious winners include the likes of Moscow Flyer, Kauto Star, Sire De Grugy, Sprinter Sacre and Flagship Uberalles. The aforementioned list of horses are seen as modern day greats of National Hunt racing and we’ve seen some illustrious clashes. This years renewal looks to be reminiscent of the mighty clashes between Moscow Flyer, Well Chief and Azertyioup and although there’s only four runners set to go to post but what a stellar lineup we have. A mouth watering clash between the reigning champion, the former champion and two young pretenders.
The turnout in terms of numbers is a tad disappointing but in regards to the level of class on show I’d go as far as to say it’s one of the classiest renewals in recent years.
The standout horse of the moment is Altior who’s unbeaten in his last fourteen starts. Multiple grade one victor he’s vying to be one of the greatest two mile chasers of all time and if he can demolish this field he’s put a big seal of approval on his claim to the throne.
Despite Altior’s immense success it’s not so easy to readily dismiss his trio of rivals.
Irish raider Un De Sceaux has only been defeated twice in his last nine starts and of those seven wins they include this very race back in 2016 and a Grade 1 win at the Cheltenham Festival. One of the flag bearers for top trainer Willie Mullins over the past few years he’s a very formidable horse on his day but the one niggling doubt is that the two mile trip isn’t what he’s looking for these days and a preference for further may well be his undoing.
We then look at the new kids on the block in the form of Sceau Royal and Saint Calvados.
Unbeaten over today’s course and distance Sceau Royal has the attributes to compete at this level but just how good he is only time will tell. A convincing winner of the Cheltenham Chase on his seasonal return back in November the field was of a decent standard but the level of opposition is a leap ahead. A massive step up needs to be taken for this six year old but he’s barely put a foot wrong to date and may be the most likely opponent to the short priced favourite.
Although currently the outsider in the betting Saint Calvados is far from a back marker. A four length success on his most recent run looked promising enough but as with Sceau Royal he’s going to have to be on a huge upward curve to progress enough to come out on top. That isn’t to say it’s impossible but if he did then it would be a minor shock.
Analysing the race and looking through the form book you can’t look anywhere other than towards Altior. He’s been there and done it and although the race isn’t run on paper it’s going to be hard to topple Nicky Henderson’s stable star.
13:30 Aintree – Present Man (E/W)
13:50 Sandown – Pingshou (E/W)
14:05 Aintree – Definitely Red (WIN)
14:25 Sandown – Apple’s Shakira (WIN)
14:40 Aintree – Giving Glances (WIN) – NAP
15:00 Sandown – Altior (WIN)
15:15 Aintree – Warriors Tale (E/W)
15:35 Sandown – Chase The Spud (E/W)