Nicholls chasing ninth Tingle Creek victory

The Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown on Saturday is a Grade 1 chase over 2 miles. This year’s race had been the early-season target of the last two Champion chasers but both have been forced to miss the event through injury.

Reigning two-mile Champion Sire De Grugy suffered a hip injury at home which will keep him out until the New Year while Nicky Henderson has decided against running Sprinter Sacre. The eight-year-old is the highest rated chaser in training but has not raced since pulling up with an irregular heartbeat at Kempton last December.

The race has been won by some of the most popular chasers in modern times including Desert Orchid, Moscow Flyer and Kauto Star. The withdrawal of the big two has certainly opened up the race with a large field now expected after eighteen horses were declared on Monday.

Dodging Bullets

If you’re identifying a favourite for the Tingle Creek, no trainer has a better record in this race than Paul Nicholls who won it eight times between 1999 and 2010. His first winner was Flagship Uberalles who went on to win for different trainers in 2000 and 2001. Nicholls struck again with Cenkos in 2002 before Kauto Star (2005, 2006), Twist Magic (2007, 2009) and Master Minded (2008, 2010) gave him an unprecedented six consecutive winners.

Nicholls has entered Dodging Bullets and Hinterland this year, both of which tasted defeat on their seasonal debut. Hinterland would appear to be the ideal candidate for this race having won the Henry VIII Chase last year over course and distance. However, he was pulled up after breaking a blood vessel behind God’s Own at Exeter last month and that has to be a concern.

Dodging Bullets [pictured] was strongly fancied for last year’s Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham but he raced too keenly and faded into fourth place. He ran well at the same course last month behind Uxizandre and looks the more likely of the two to add to Nicholls’s tally in the race. He is certainly in the right age bracket with five, six and seven-year-olds having the best record.

The only older horses to win this race in the past twenty years have been Moscow Flyer and Sizing Europe, both Champions Chase winners. None of this year’s entries over the age of eight are in that class so it is difficult to see the likes of Alderwood, Somersby or Wishfull Thinking adding their name to the roll of honour.

God’s Own

Recent winning form has been a common feature among winners of this race and God’s Own and the Willie Mullins trained duo of Ballycasey and Twinlight come into this category. Ballycasey was aimed at the three-mile RSA Chase last season in which he finished fourth. He was an impressive winner at Gowran Park last month but this looks on the sharp side for him. The worry with Twinlight is his jumping as he is inclined to hit one or two and he cannot afford mistakes in a race of this quality.

God’s Own produced a stunning display to win at Punchestown in May and beat Balder Succes by five lengths on his reappearance at Exeter. The runner-up was conceding 7lbs that day and made a crucial mistake three out. God’s Own was not foot perfect himself so it would be difficult to argue that he did not win on merit. Balder Succes had beaten God’s Own at Kempton last February but jumped poorly here in the Henry VIII at a time when the King stable were badly out of form.

Mullins has also entered Felix Yonger who was nearly four lengths behind God’s Own at Punchestown. He was runner-up to Moscow Mannon at Naas at the start of November but needs to put up a career-best to win this.

Nicky Henderson relies on Oscar Whisky who ran a fine race when fourth to Caid Du Berlais at Cheltenham in the Paddy Power Gold Cup. He carried 11st 12lb that day and was only beaten two and a quarter lengths. His best form over hurdles was at two and a half miles and all three of his chase victories have come at that distance.

Betting Guide

God’s Own currently leads Balder Succes 2-1 on their head-to-head clashes but the market still favours Alan King’s runner. God’s Own looked good value for his win at Exeter and could confirm the form on Saturday.

Paul Nicholls has a great record in the race and Dodging Bullets is preferred to Hinterland after his very encouraging run at Cheltenham. He still held every chance going to the last fence and that should have put him spot on for this. He could be the each-way value in a very competitive renewal.

Hennessy placed Dude and King run fine Grand National trials

The Grade 3 Hennessy Gold Cup might be over three-and-a-quarter-miles but it remains a significant race for pinpointing possible live candidates for the marathon Crabbie’s Grand National at Aintree in April. This year’s renewal of the November 29 Newbury contest is likely to prove no exception to that rule.

Many Clouds was an impressive winner of the Hennessy for trainer Oliver Sherwood and jockey Leighton Aspell, and has been introduced into a few ante-post lists for Aintree at around 25/1, but connections have already made it clear that they have the Cheltenham Gold Cup as their main target this season so he has to be considered an unlikely runner at this stage of proceedings.

Hennessy runner-up Houblon des Obeaux was beaten only three lengths and was conceding the winner 6lbs, so technically emerges at the best horse in the race. He has plenty going for him should trainer Venetia Williams - who sent out shock 100/1 scorer Mon Mome to win the John Smith’s Grand National back in 2009 – choose to direct her progressive stayer towards Aintree in the spring. Again, at this stage that is far from certain, and while he is offered to back at 130 for the 2015 Grand National with Betfair, his shrewd handler may well have other targets in mind for the time being.

Caption: Venetia Williams has sent a horse to victory in the Grand National before – can she do it again?

The third and fourth placed Hennessy Gold Cup runners however are both expected to be trained with a bid for “the world’s greatest steeplechase” in mind in the spring. Merry King gave Tony McCoy a great ride in the showcase Newbury event, never far from the decent pace set throughout the contest before being produced by the champion jockey to have every chance going to the final fence. Despite having bottom weight he couldn’t quicken with the eventual winner and runner-up, but they are two very good horses, and over a longer trip Merry King’s stamina will serve him well and he remains a genuine contender for the Grand National and may well have a pop at the Welsh equivalent first.
Fifth in the Hennessy last season, Merry King went on to occupy the same position behind Mountainous at Chepstow in the Welsh National, ran third in Haydock’s Peter Marsh Chase, then after a blip back at Haydock - when he failed to handle desperately heavy ground - ran a great race to be fourth in the Scottish Grand National at Ayr, behind Al Co. Already this season Jonjo O’Neill’s young stayer had confirmed his wellbeing when a good third behind What A Warrior in a very competitive Ascot handicap chase, and he can still be backed at up to 40/1 for the Grand National in the spring which is usually run on the decent ground that best suits the seven-year-old gelding.

Fourth home at Newbury was the Michael Scudamore-trained Monbeg Dude, winner of the 2012 Coral Welsh National where he got the better of a memorable duel over the final two fences with the gallant Teaforthree, who was conceding him plenty of weight. In the Hennessy, Monbeg Dude shaped very much like the out-and-out stayer he is, struggling to go the strong early gallop but then staying on nicely inside the final half-mile to come steaming through to grab fourth place, showing the benefit of his seasonal pipe-opener at Chepstow in October when he had been a good second to Victor’s Serenade.

Winner of the Grade 3 Majordomo Hospitality Handicap Chase at Cheltenham’s December fixture last season, Monbeg Dude went on to run at Aintree in April and put up a very good effort in finishing seventh of the 40 runners behind Pineau de Re, a solid performance considering he made a couple of serious mistakes in the last third of the race that must have knocked some of the stuffing out of him.

With that first experience of the Aintree fences under his belt it is reasonable to assume that the gelded son of Witness Box might well have a better idea of what awaits him next time at the Liverpool track and connections – including part-owner Mike Tindall, the former England rugby union star – are already dreaming of lining up again for the big one. Available to back at around the mark of 36 following his Newbury run, Monbeg Dude is generally a 33/1 shot in the ante-post market with most fixed odds firms.

Ninth in the Hennessy Gold Cup, and last of those to finish – 19 set out and the very testing ground certainly took its toll on some good horses - was Alan King’s Midnight Prayer, last season’s four-mile National Hunt Chase winner having his first run of the new campaign. He certainly shaped as though the outing would do him good and connections have already hinted that they may be interested in a crack at the Grand National, although first they will bid for the Welsh National for which Midnight Prayer is 12/1 co-favourite in the betting lists at present. He would definitely have the stamina and jumping ability to go well at Aintree.

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Latest News From Nicky Henderson: Sprinter Sacre To Miss Tingle Creek

Grade-One-winning chaser Sprinter Sacre was put on hold on Thursday after trainer Nicky Henderson said he would not be ready to contest the 888sport Tingle Creek Chase on Saturday week. 

Henderson announced another of his stars ,Simonsig, wouldn't make his comeback in the Betfred Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon on December 7th and doubtful for the William Hill King George VI Chase on Boxing Day. A racecourse gallop had been expected to determine if 2013 Champion Chase winner Sprinter Sacre [pictured], who was last seen in public pulling up with a heart scare [fibrillating heart] at Kempton 11 months ago, would make the Tingle Creek but, while insisting there is no sign of his previous heart problems, Henderson said the Sandown contest comes too soon. 

Speaking at Newbury on Thursday, the trainer said: "Sprinter is fine and working away, but not quite ready for a race. He did two canters this morning and will do two tomorrow.

"He had a clean bill of health after spending a few days having tests in Newmarket, but we're not quite there with him. I wouldn't want to run him in this testing ground anyway. The Desert Orchid Chase [at Kempton on December 27] would be the next possible target. He wouldn't be in training if we didn't think he'd race again.

"In the Tingle Creek we may now run Oscar Whisky." 

Henderson feels many of his team have needed their first runs of the season, which adds to his woes.Further bad news came that Simonsig has suffered a further setback.

Henderson added: "He has had a couple of blips and was lame for a day or two and will now miss the Peterborough. It would be a tall order to get him to the King George as his first run after missing a season but we'll see. He'd been in really good order, so it's frustrating. The lameness was nothing to do with the splint he had last winter."

Simonsig has been off the track with injury since winning the 2013 Racing Post Arkle at Cheltenham and his likely absence at Kempton led to Betfred shortening Betfair Chase winner Silviniaco Conti to 3-1 favourite (from 7-2) for the King George, with Champagne Fever cut to 4-1 (from 5). 

Also, Henderson stated that testing ground was the reason for Sign Of A Victory's absence from the final field for Saturday's Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle.

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Ferdy Not Camera Shy For Ladies Day Crabbie’s Grand National 2015

The Crabbie’s Grand National advertising campaign for 2015 has been unveiled. A set of dramatic, powerful images that really capture the spirit and thrill of this great race. 

Being local to Aintree Paul Green's Oaklea Racing Stables were asked if they could supply a horse to partner Katie Walsh for the Ladies Day advert. Green said: ''Lets say, when it came to finding a horse that knew how to pose we knew we had the perfect one. Good looks, style and certainly not camera shy…step up Ferdy!'' 

As we all know Katie Walsh is no stranger to riding racehorses, but I’m sure that even she found riding in a full-length dress a bit hard to negotiate. Ferdy was a perfect gentleman and even with a 3 ft train flapping around his bum he still behaved impeccably…well most of the time!

Plenty of interest already in Cheltenham championship races

Although the National Hunt season proper has only really got under way with the arrival of the autumn rain, there are already plenty of punters taking more than a second glance at the ante-post markets for the principal championship races for the 2015 Cheltenham Festival, writes Elliot Slater.

Many of the market principals hail from the most powerful yards in the sport with the likes of Willie Mullins, Paul Nicholls, Nicky Henderson, David Pipe, Jonjo O’Neill, and Alan King all fielding representatives with a prominent position in the Cheltenham Festival betting next yaer.
Mullins’ tremendous prospect Faugheen, winner of the Neptune Investment Management Novices Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March, is generally sharing favouritism at around 5/1 for this term’s Champion Hurdle alongside the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained star The New One, a horse who many observers felt was unlucky not to win last term’s blue riband contest in which he finished a close third to Jessica Harrington’s Jezki after recovering well from being badly hampered by a faller at an early stage of the contest. Jezki is expected to try and defend his title, while last season’s runner-up, the Nicky Henderson-trained My Tent Or Yours, is another potential candidate proving popular with punters in the ante-post Cheltenham Festival betting.

The Queen Mother Champion Chase is already being priced up as something of a two-horse race – but what a fantastic pair they are. The 2013 champion, Sprinter Sacre, is generally quoted the 3/1 ante-post favourite, just ahead of last year’s impressive winner Sire de Grugy (4/1), the Gary Moore-trained star who took full advantage of Sprinter Sacre’s absence after the top-class Henderson-trained chaser pulled up on his only start of last season suffering from an irregular heartbeat.

With his ailments reportedly behind him now, the return to the fray of Sprinter Sacre is going to be one of the most exciting events of the first half of the season, and the prospective series of battles between him and Sire de Grugy throughout the campaign is likely to draw in tremendous crowds wherever they compete.

The World Hurdle, the highlight on day three of the meeting, will once again be the main target for the Jonjo O’Neill-trained More Of That, who maintained his perfect record when inflicting a first ever defeat on the high-class Willie Mullins-trained mare Annie Power in a memorable renewal of the three-mile contest last March. At current best odds in the ante-post betting with odds of just 3/1, More of That is likely to be one of the hottest favourites of the week if he maintains his form this season. Annie Power may take him on again, (although connections appear more likely to target the Mares’ Hurdle), so it remains to be seen if any new dangers, such as the Punchestown winner Jetson, will emerge as serious challengers to O’Neill’s star turn.

The most open of the four major championship races is the Cheltenham Gold Cup itself with no outstanding candidate at this early stage of the season. The latest ante-post odds reflect this, with betting firms offering 10/1 the field, former champion Bobs Worth and the Grade 1 Aintree winner Holywell, (a winner of a handicap at the Cheltenham Festival a few weeks earlier), heading a wide-open field. Bobs Worth didn’t appear quite as good last year as the previous campaign when the Henderson-trained gelding won the Gold Cup in great style, but he wasn’t beaten far in March behind Jim Culloty’s surprise winner Lord Windermere, who is currently a general 14/1 shot to retain his crown.