Master Minded, Kauto Star, Sizing Europe, Sprinter Sacre. What do they all have in common? They all were previous winners of the Tingle Creek. That shows the magnitude of this race and how prestigious it is in terms of an early season coup for top level 2m chasers. This year, with the withdrawal of Un De Sceaux, there may not be a name in there that would fit alongside the greats mentioned above, but with just 10lb on official ratings separating the 8 intended runners, it is an extremely intriguing affair after which we could see some serious shake ups to the Queen Mother Champion Chase markets.
We start by mentioning the fact that it looks as if Nicky Henderson will launch a double-pronged attack on the race by entering both Josses Hill (14-1) and Simonsig (11-4). Josses Hill actually finished ahead of the current favourite for this race, Vibrato Valtat (who we come onto later) in the Arkle at Cheltenham and after his hurdling campaign (placed in the Supreme Novices’) it looked as if he may go on to be a top class 2 mile chaser. But his jumping technique has let him down over the past year and he really would need to improve on that front if he were to win here. Saying that, his form in 2 mile chases reads 21122113, which even for all his downfalls on the jumping side of things shows he still has the ability to win races and earns his place here.
Simonsig needs no real introduction. Beaten only by Fingal Bay before this year, he was a brilliant winner of the 2013 Arkle and one of the best novice chasers we have seen in a long time. His comeback run this year, when beaten by stablemate Bob’s Worth, was visually impressive as he approached the last still on the bridle, but lacked the match fitness to get him home. He will strip fitter today and one thing you can guarantee with Nicky Henderson is that when one of his horses are entered into a race, they are there to win, and fit enough to win.
Special Tiara (11-2 Betway, 5-1 elsewhere) has been the focus of antepost support being trimmed all the way from 20’s into 5’s and you can certainly see why double figures would be harsh. He is the highest rated in the race, beat Sprinter Sacre over C&D, and with the withdrawal of Un De Sceaux he will be the one making the running. However, I cannot judge his win over Sprinter Sacre as highly as it sounds as Sprinter was no where near his best last season. Special Tiara made a poor comeback this year and although you can see him running well it is hard to see value in him at 5-1.
Somersby (14-1) is perhaps a good each way bet, and with 8 intended runners that is always worth considering. He is an ultra-consistent sort who rarely seems to run a bad race and and at the age of 11 still showed his qualities when chasing down Sprinter Sacre at Cheltenham. He was only narrowly beaten in the 2015 Queen Mother and although he may find one or two too good, the 14’s current available with Betway is tempting enough. One for the shortlist, perhaps, especially with Nina Carberry on board.
But the buck really does stop with Vibrato Valtat (9-4 in places, 2-1 elsewhere). The improvement this horse has shown in typical Paul Nicholls fashion is incredible. I think his runs towards the back end of last season were not his true showing, and that is being very harsh when you consider that this horse has had 23 career runs, with 8 wins, 8 seconds and 4 thirds. He again showed his upward trend when winning the Haldon Gold Cup without really breaking sweat, and let’s consider 2 other huge positives for this horse. Firstly, he has always performed better with a strong pace to aim at (Special Tiara) and his trainer Paul Nicholls has won 7 of the last 10 runnings. He is a very valid favourite and I disagree with those that say Simonsig should go off favourite here.
As much as I don’t think there is too much value at 7-4/2-1, Vibrato Valtat is my idea of the likely winner here. That is of course stating the obvious, but I don’t believe the market support for Special Tiara and Simonsig is valid, and Vibrato will take all the beating. I wouldn’t be about taking 2-1, however, and with 8 runners there is good reasoning behind an each way bet. Without even touching on Sire De Grugy (a horse very close to my heart but one I cannot take seriously for this race) or Mr Mole, Josses Hill may be one to have on an each way slip. His form shows he is rarely out of the first 3, has beaten the current solid favourite for this race in the Arkle, and a horse who if he has improved his jumping, will have the speed to get away from a few of these here.
Whichever way it goes it certainly is a great race to be viewing and a very much an open renewal of the Tingle Creek.