Only four horses went to post for Saturday’s Grade 1 Betfair Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown Park, but what a quartet for the two mile test of speed and jumping first run in 1979 and named in honour of one of the most popular National Hunt horses of the 1970’s. Reigning Champion Chaser Altior was sent off the 8-13 favourite to make it ten from ten over fences but with the ground riding heavy and against three seriously talented rivals the son of High Chaparral’s unbeaten record looked vulnerable on his seasonal reappearance.
Saint Calvados, who took the scalp of last season’s outstanding two mile novice chaser Footpad at Naas last month, set out to make all in the driving rain until headed by Ruby Walsh and Irish raider Un De Sceaux at the sixth fence with Altior and Sceau Royal content to track the two pacesetters. Willie Mullins’ consistent ten-year-old held a decisive advantage jumping the third-last at which point Gavin Sheehan and Daryl Jacobs began to send out distress signals aboard their respective mounts.
In the meantime Nico de Boinville was beginning to ask Altior for maximum effort and Nicky Henderson’s charge, as has been the case so many times in the past, did not shirk the issue. While there was little between the pair jumping the last the younger horse soon settled the issue on the run to the line, putting four lengths between himself and the gallant runner-up passing the post.
Returning to a hero’s welcome from a crowd who know an outstanding performer when they see one, having witnessed what the winning trainer described as “ what top-class two-mile chasing around Sandown is all about. “ After such a comprehensive victory over three of the best two-milers either side of the Irish sea it is no wonder Altior is odds-on with all bookmakers for a second Champion Chase come March, the 4-5 available with 888Sport the best on offer.
Altior was awesome today! Well done to all the team at Seven Barrows to get him spot on. pic.twitter.com/ZZ3tXiCq4t— Nico de Boinville (@NdeBoinville) December 8, 2018
While two mile two furlongs is the furthest Altior has been asked to travel so far the temptation must be there to step up in trip at some point as the gelding shows no sign of stopping at the end of his races. If connections decided to have a change of heart and send the horse to Kempton on Boxing Day for the King George over 3m the 16-1 offered by several firms would prove the value bet of the year.
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