Saturday’s 888sport Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown was expected to result in an eagerly awaited match between Sprinter Sacre and Sire Du Grugy, the best two mile chasers in training, until last season’s Champion Chaser was ruled out of the Grade 1 contest due to a setback, news that was later followed by trainer Nicky Henderson declaring that his impressive 2013 Queen Mother Champion Chase winner would not be ready in time to have his first outing since being pulled-up with a heart scare at Kempton just under a year ago.
The absence of the last two Tingle Creek and Champion Chase winners has robbed the race of the level of quality to which it has become accustomed but on a positive note Saturday could see one of the most competitive renewals since its inception in 1979 as a bumper entry of 18 was revealed at Monday’s six-day declaration stage headed by one of last season’s top novices in the Alan King-trained Balder Succes.
The six-year-old is a top price 3-1 with Betway to gain revenge on his Haldon Gold Cup conqueror God’s Own on 7lb better terms with Tom George’s son of Oscar who is second best in the ante-post market at 9-2 with Betfred, Paddy Power and Coral. The score between the two horses last season stood at one all as first Balder Succes gave God’s Own weight and a beating in the Grade 2 Pendil Chase at Kempton back in February, form that was later overturned when the latter proved a half length and a neck too good for the former in Punchestown’s Grade 1 Ryanair Novice Chase in May.
God’s Own also holds an entry in the Racing Post Henry VIII Novices’ Chase on the same card but is more likely to take up his engagement in the more valuable contest, with his trainer saying: “We’re leaning towards the Tingle Creek. It would have been a mistake not to enter him in the novice race as he is a novice, but I would say it’s more than likely at this stage he goes for the Tingle Creek. He’s improved quite a bit since we finished behind Balder Succes at Kempton and we’ve beaten him the last two times. It will be interesting.”
In what could turn out to be a cracking betting heat other possible leading contenders include Paddy Power Gold Cup fourth Oscar Whisky ( 9-1 Bet365, Stan James and Betfair Sportsbook ), Somersby ( also 9-1 with most bookmakers ), Dodging Bullets ( 10-1 generally ) and Twinlight from the powerful Irish stable of Willie Mullins who is currently a standout 11-1 with the race-sponsor.