Sandown’s biggest jumps fixture, the Tingle Creek Festival, is held annually during the first weekend in December.
Starting on the Friday, which holds the Grade 2 Winter Novices’ Hurdle, the meeting’s key races are run on the Saturday where there is a seven race card, including the headlining Tingle Creek Chase.
The Tingle Creek, first run in 1979, brings together some of the best two-mile chasers in training. The previous winners lists boast some greats of the sport in Desert Orchid, Moscow Flyer, Kauto Star and Altior to name just four.
The other chases on the Saturday are the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase over the same trip as the Tingle Creek, and the London Chase over three and a half miles. The are four hurdles contests that day, the most valuable of which being the Listed December Handicap Hurdle.
Tingle Creek Day: Saturday
|12:05||Betfair Juvenile Hurdle||Class 2||2m|
|12:40||My Oddsboost On Betfair ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle||Class 3||2m|
|1:15||Betfair Novices’ Handicap Hurdle||Class 4||2m|
|1:50||Planteur At Chapel Stud Henry VIII Novices’ Chase||Grade 1||1m7½f|
|2:25||Betfair Tingle Creek Chase||Grade 1||1m7½f|
|3:00||Betfair Exchange London National Handicap Chase||Class 2||3m5f|
|3:35||Betfair Exchange December Handicap Hurdle||Class 1||2m|
The Tingle Creek Chase is the big highlight of the National Hunt season at Sandown and regularly attracts the real superstars of the two mile chasing division. A statement well illustrated by a quick glance at the recent roll of honour here, with the names of Altior, Sprinter Sacre, Master Minded, Moscow Flyer and Kauto Star all appearing since the year 2000.
Such a quality contest demands a strong supporting cast, and Sandown certainly provides it with another Grade 1 race in the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase and the marathon of the London National featuring prominently on the undercard. Plenty of good-looking races on offer then, and there are some good looking bets to be had too. Here we run through each of the days seven contests.
12:05 Betfair Free Bet On The 1.50 Introductory Juvenile Hurdle
Sandown, Class 2, 2m
The three year old hurdlers kick of the action as eight runners go to post in a race won last season by the talented Goshen who, barring a final flight fall, would have hosed up at the Cheltenham Festival. Whether any of this year’s line-up will prove up to that standard remains to be seen, but we do have a number of promising sorts on show.
Elham Valley, Hudson De Grugy, Masterdream, Royaume Uni and Yggdrasil will all be making their hurdling debut’s here and are therefore difficult to assess. Yggdrasil boasts the most attractive National Hunt pedigree of those but may need further in time, whilst, as a distant relative to Champion Chaser Sire De Grugy, it will also be interesting to see how Hudson De Grugy gets on. However, on the limited form available, Paros does seem to be the one to be beat. Hailing from the powerful Nicky Henderson operation, he won his sole start in France in a canter and will be well suited to the likely soft ground.
Paros to win
12:40 My Oddsboost On Betfair ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle
Sandown, Class 3, 2m
Just the four runners go to post in our second contest, and barring a plunge on either of the debutantes – Golden Boy Grey and Mickyh – this seems most likely to fall to the Nicky Henderson-trained Grand Mogul. This one looked to have lost the plot last season, but bounced right back to form when hacking up in a 2m3½ soft ground event at Chepstow, before then being undone by the step up to Grade 2 level and a 2m5f trip at Cheltenham last time out.
An eight-length winner of a bumper over this trip in 2018, this step back down in trip shouldn’t inconvenience, whilst the significant drop in class can’t hurt his chance either. Henderson has won this six times in the past nine years and looks to boast solid claims once again.
Grand Mogul to win
1:15 Read Paul Nicholls On betting.betfair Novices’ Handicap Hurdle
Sandown, Class 4, 2m
The Fergal O’Brien runner Naizagai has made his way towards the head of the market in the opening handicap on the card, despite not really boasting the form in the book to merit that position. That may prove an ominous sign with the three year old making his handicap debut from the foot of the weights. A plot may well be afoot, but at around the 3/1 mark there are more solid-looking options here.
Cogital was an easy winner over the distance back in October and can go well, but does need to bounce back from an underwhelming effort at Kempton last time out, whilst Fifty Ball showed admirable determination to score over 2m3½f at Ascot las time out and can go well despite a seven pound higher mark. It is back to the Henderson yard to which we turn for our selection though. The multiple champion trainer’s runner Chasamax was only run out of it close home when going down by just half a length in a similar event at Cheltenham last time out and looks the sort to be suited by the switch to this less demanding track. At odds of 3/1, he shouldn’t be far away under the expert guidance of Nico De Boinville.
Chasamax to win at 3/1
1:50 Planteur At Chapel Stud Henry VIII Novices’ Chase
Sandown, Grade 1, 1m7½f
One of the classiest early season novice chases is up next and the 2020 renewal looks to be well up to scratch, with a number of highly promising chasers from the top yards on show. Dan Skelton’s Allmankind was just about the best of these over hurdles having finished a close up third in last season’s Triumph Hurdle, and it is he who heads the betting. A 13-length winner on chase debut at Warwick last time out, he looks to have translated his hurdling ability to the larger obstacles. At 9/4 he is however a little on the short side in what looks a competitive heat.
Paul Nicholls has taken four of the past 10 renewals of this, making his duo of Hitman (9/4) and Tamaroc Du Mathan worthy of the utmost respect, with the four year old recent recruit from France, Hitman, making the most appeal. Eldorado Allen (7/2) meanwhile is rated by Colin Tizzard as the best two mile chaser the yard has had, and landed a Grade 2 at Cheltenham last time. He did benefit from the late fall of Gumball that day, but with 19 lengths back to the eventual second the more looks solid.
At the prices though the value bet in the race for us is an each way punt on the Jamie Snowden runner, Ga Law (11/2). Making his fourth start over fences, this one has an experience edge on his rivals which counts for plenty given the notoriously difficult railway fences down the back straight. A bold jumping front runner, he has won his three previous starts by a combined 37 lengths, and if getting into rhythm up front he may prove very tough to stop.
Ga Law to win at 11/2
2:25 Betfair Tingle Creek Chase
Sandown, Grade 1, 1m7½f
The feature race of the day certainly lives up to its billing as one of the highest quality two mile chases around. Heading the betting ahead of this year’s renewal is one of the classiest performers in this sphere in the modern era: the mighty Altior (4/5). With a win rate of 15 from 16 in his career over fences to date, that sole defeat came when proving no match for Cyrname in a gruelling Christy 1965 Chase over 2m5f at Ascot. Sticking to events at around this 2m trip, the Nicky Henderson inmate is unbeaten since making his chase debut back in 2016. He is closing in on his 11th birthday now, which would make him the joint oldest winner in the history of the race if coming home in front, but is reported to be in fine fettle by his trainer and is the one they all have to beat.
Champion chaser Politologue (9/2) heads up the opposition and can’t be discounted, but is zero from three in clashes with Altior now. He did however win this back in 2017, and is one year younger than the Henderson star, so may be the one able to take advantage should the market leader’s powers be on the wane.
Others to consider are Rouge Vif (8/1) who really impressed at his fences when scoring at Cheltenham last time, and the Paul Nicholls-trained Greanateen (5/1) who has rocketed through the handicapping ranks, sees out the trip particularly well, and may not be done improving yet. All in all though we are inclined to side with the market leader who remains the king of the two mile division until proven otherwise.
Altior to win at 4/5
3:00 Betfair Exchange Back And Lay London National Handicap Chase
Sandown, Class 2, 3m5f
The big staying event on the card has attracted some real old stalwarts including former Midlands Grand National champ Regal Flow (16/1) who bids to roll back the years at 13, and Crosspark (9/2) who likely wont be found wanting in the stamina department having landed the Eider Chase in the past.
The seven year old Classic Ben (7/2) meanwhile has youth on his side and is proving pretty popular in the market which could augur well. Yet to prove he stays this far though, he’s not for us here. The second seven year old in the field Cloudy Glen (15/8) is tough to fault on the back of a 13-length rout in the Southern National last time out. Perfectly at home on soft ground, an 11 pound hike in the handicap for that success may not be enough to stop him.
The one who looks to have been underestimated by the market though is the Evan Williams runner, Pobbles Bay (10/1). An easy winner of the West Wales National over 3m4f last season, when value for a good bit more than the one and a half length winning margin, he looks very feasibly handicapped off only five pounds higher here. Returning to the track following a 230-day break with an encouraging second at Aintree, he was still going well enough when unseating at Haydock last time out and is fancied to go close at a nice double figure price.
Pobbles Bay each way at 10/1
3:35 Betfair Exchange December Handicap Hurdle
Sandown, Class 1, 2m
Hopefully Nicky Henderson will enjoy a fruitful Saturday afternoon at Sandown, as it is another of the Lambourn handler’s runners, Mister Coffey, who carries our cash in the finale. A real giant of a horse, this one joined Henderson having hosed up in a bumper for Harry Fry, and promptly broke his duck over hurdles at the first time of asking over hurdles at Newbury. Still immature last term, he blotted his copybook on his final start of the season when doing way too much in front at Huntingdon before predictably fading into second on the run in.
Fast forward to the current campaign, and whilst he did still pull hard at times, he was a lot more amenable to Nico De Boinville’s instructions before powering clear for a five length success. The fact that that run came over this course and distance is a big plus, whilst the likely strong pace of this should also suit him well.
Mister Coffey to win at 2/1
A Complete History of the Tingle Creek Chase
For decades, the Tingle Creek Chase has welcomed some of the leading two-mile chasers in the business. Considered one of the ultimate tests of speed and jumping, it often takes a fine horse to triumph in this contest. It is therefore little wonder why names such as Desert Orchid, Moscow Flyer, Kauto Star and Sprinter Sacre feature on the honours list.
The title of the race itself honours a horse named Tingle Creek who was something of a Sandown Park specialist. A course which very much played to his strengths, he visited Surrey regularly and so often produced the goods.
One event in particular allowed him to shine brightest, the Sandown Handicap Pattern Chase. The famous white-faced, spring-heeled flyer appeared in this contest in six successive years, winning three times and finishing runner-up the other three. Incredibly, each time he was victorious he broke a track record in the process.
This two-day festival takes place in early December each year and is very much one of the winter highlights. Let’s see how it all began …
1969 – Tingle Creek foundations
Although the Tingle Creek Chase officially begin in 1979, it has roots dating back a decade earlier. In 1969, Sandown introduced the Benson & Hedges Gold Cup, which later became the Mecca Bookmakers’ Handicap Chase in 1977. It was this race that was turned into the Tingle Creek chase once the sponsorship deal with Mecca Bookmakers (who later merged with William Hill) expired.
1979 – Tingle Creek Chase unveiled
Tingle Creek’s last ever appearance, fittingly, came at Sandown in November 1978. Just over a year later, he had a race named in his honour, the Tingle Creek Chase. Much like today’s event, it initially took place over a distance of around two miles. It did however, also run as a handicap race rather than a level weights contest. A horse by the name of Artifice won the inaugural edition of the steeplechase.
1982 – News King Double
We did not have to wait long for the first repeat winner as News King defended his Tingle Creek crown in 1982. Fred Winter was his trainer with seven-time Champion Jockey John Francome in the saddle for both wins.
1983 – Frost cancellation
For a British race scheduled in December, there is always a danger of the weather forcing a postponement or cancellation. This was the case in 1983 with organisers having to call off the race due to frosty conditions. Unable to find a suitable replacement venue, this is the only time the Tingle Creek Chase has failed to go ahead since its inception.
1987 – Desert Orchid engaged in thrilling battle
The 1987 running of the Tingle Creek Chase did wonders to increase its profile. Top weight and well-fancied favourite Desert Orchid approached the race on the back off two emphatic lower-class victories. Despite the growing hype surrounding him, David Elsworth’s horse was thwarted on the day by an excellent performance from Long Engagement.
The following year the much loved grey returned to Sandown to obliterate a small field in what ended up being his Gold Cup winning season. He did attempt the race on two future occasions but missed out to Long Engagement once again in 1989 and was easily beaten in the 1990 running.
1994 – Tingle Creek handed top classification
A reclassification saw the Tingle Creek Chase move from being a Grade 2 handicap to a Grade 1 even-weights contest. In doing so, the total prize money for the race doubled, going up from just over £25,000 to more than £50,000. The increase in money and class was enough to persuade David Nicholson to enter Viking Flagship in the contest. In a repeat of what happened in the Champion Chase earlier in the year, Flagship triumphed, with rival Travado forced to settle for second.
2000 – Cheltenham steps in
The 2000 running of the Tingle Creek Chase took place a week later than usual as Sandown Racecourse faced severe flooding. Far less impacted by the wet conditions, Cheltenham came to the rescue to host the Grade 1 event.
The change in venue did second favourite Tiutchev no favours as he hit the challenging open ditch very hard and never recovered. His costly mistake paved the way for an emphatic win for defending champ Flagship Uberalles who finished 11 lengths clear of his nearest challenger.
2001 – Historic hat-trick for Uberalles
In 2001, Flagship Uberalles completed one of the most unusual major race hat-tricks you are likely to see. This was the first, and remains the only time a horse has won this race three times but there is more to it than that. Firstly, the half-brother of Viking Flagship was the first horse to win the contest at two different racecourses (something later managed by Master Minded).
What is more unbelievable though is that he had a different trainer and jockey combination for each win. Initially victorious for Paul Nicholls, he then scored success for Noel Chance and then Philip Hobbs, with whom he eventually retired. When racing for Hobbs, Robert Widger was selected as jockey due to an injury sustained by first choice Richard Johnson. To this day Widger stands as the only amateur rider to have won this highly-regarded race.
A number of horses have won two Tingle Creeks, often back to back, but Flagship Uberalles remains the only ever three-time victor.
2004 – Age unable to ground Moscow Flyer
With a career record of 26 wins from 44 starts, there are few horses with a better record than Moscow Flyer. A truly formidable performer, he collected a number of major titles during an illustrious career. He did not win any races as an 11-year-old but during his 10-year-old season, he won five contests including the Tingle Creek. By doing so he became, and still is, the oldest horse to have won this event.
It was a particularly fine victory too given that Moscow Flyer had to see off the challenge of that year’s Champion Chase winner Azertyuiop. Given their well-established rivalry, this hotly anticipated renewal attracted a record-breaking crowd to the venue.
Over 16,000 people came to view the action at Sandown, an all-time course best for a National Hunt fixture. Those that came were not at all disappointed, with this renewal one of the Tingle Creek’s all-time greats. Slight favourite Azertyuiop huffed and puffed but could not match the fast and accurate jumping of the eventual winner.
2007 – Nicholls hits double digits
Paul Nicholls became the first trainer to hit 10 successes in this race. He was quite a way ahead of the competition too with no other trainer close to matching his superb record in this contest.
While the overall tally is impressive enough, it is worth nothing Nicholls strung together an unbelievable six-year winning streak starting in 2005. Very rarely indeed would you ever see one trainer enjoy such a sustained period of success in a top level contest and the world class handler did the business with three different horses in this period (Kauto Star, Twist Magic and Master Minded all claiming two wins).
To think that Nicholls could have an even better record in this race had he not shipped off Flagship Uberalles in the autumn of 2000. Having pulled up in his final two starts of the 1999/00 season, Nicholls assumed the horse was on a downward trajectory and made the mistake of letting him go. Given all his wins we think he won’t be having too many sleepless nights.
2010 – Cheltenham return for the Tingle Creek
Bad weather at Sandown a week earlier forced organisers to postpone the 2010 Tingle Creek Chase. Just like what happened a decade earlier, Cheltenham stepped in as temporary hosts a week later. Despite never racing on Cheltenham’s New Course before, strong favourite Master Minded had no issue whatsoever with the fresh test. He jumped well throughout with Noel Fehily in the saddle and powered home for a very comfortable victory.
2012 – Kinkeel the greatest ever loser?
The history books tend to focus on winners rather than losers but let us mention Kinkeel, a horse who was hopelessly out of his depth in this contest. Having lost his previous two races by a combined 155 lengths, even his 200/1 price offered no appeal whatsoever. The involvement of the 13-year-old was primarily due to a world record breaking attempt. The ultimate goal was to break the record of 119 chase starts, with the Tingle Creek Chase his 107th effort.
There were to be no shocks at Sandown with Kinkeel finishing so far behind you needed a pair of binoculars to spot him. Unfortunately, he ended up falling six races short of the record too with an overall chase record of five wins from 113 starts.