Timeform Tingle Creek Preview: Altior is impossible to oppose

Nicky Henderson
Altior is the odds-on favourite for Saturday's Tingle Creek at Sandown
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"He is a short price at the time of writing, around 8/11 with the Betfair sportsbook, but he is impossible to oppose."

Timeform on Altior

Small but select field

With the likes of Sprinter Sacre and Douvan regularly on the sidelines in recent years, Saturday's Grade 1 Betfair Tingle Creek Chase hasn't always been able to attract the key players in the two-mile division, but this year's renewal sees Altior aim to win a race he missed last season through injury, headlining a small but select field of four.

It is Altior, last year's Champion Chase winner, who leads the way on Timeform ratings, sitting 10 lb clear of the field, and he also has a 'small p' attached to his rating, meaning that he remains open to improvement, too.

Injury prevented Altior from a shot at this race last year, his reappearance delayed until a flawless victory in the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury in February, and he confirmed his status as the best two-mile chaser around when an impressive winner of the Champion Chase a month later, defeating Min by seven lengths. His strength at the finish in his races, including when triumphant on his final start in the Celebration Chase here in May, means that he will once again prove a tough nut to crack. He is a short price at the time of writing, around 8/11 with the Betfair sportsbook, but he is impossible to oppose.

Serious claims

The biggest threat is likely to come from a familiar face, Un De Sceaux, who has often swerved a match-up with the very best in this division in recent years in favour of the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. He is, however, a previous winner of the Tingle Creek, and has produced top-class form himself at his peak. He has been a marvellous servant for his connections, defeating Douvan to win the Champion Chase at Punchestown in April, and whilst he may need Altior to under-perform if he is to win this, a repeat of that run would give him serious claims.

The Alan King-trained Sceau Royal is an interesting contender here, having shown very smart form as a novice chaser last term, though injury meant that he missed out on a shot at the Arkle last year. However, he has won all but one of his starts over fences, and made a winning return in good style in the Grade 2 Shloer Chase at Cheltenham last month; battling strongly to the line to see off the extended challenge of the gallant and better-placed runner-up. His campaign this season is likely to be centred around a Champion Chase bid, and whilst he can perhaps only hope for place honours at the moment, he's open to further improvement yet, and this ought to tell us more about his ability over fences - for all that he has 19 lb to find with Altior for win purposes.

Lively outsider

The field is completed by Saint Calvados, another who was a novice last term, who assumes the role of outsider, but he is a lively one, having won on reappearance in a Grade 3 contest at Naas last month, having gotten the better of the argument with the top-class Footpad before that rival departed when held at the final flight. He struggled on his one try in Grade 1 company back in March, when a disappointing fourth in the Arkle Trophy behind Footpad, but he was surely amiss that day, and is worthy of another chance. Saint Calvados, along with Un De Sceaux, is likely to be prominent from an early stage, posing an interesting tactical conundrum for Altior's jockey Nico de Boinville, though it remains to be seen whether they can get the Champion Chaser off the bridle - particularly when you consider how strong Altior has proven to be in the finish over this trip, as mentioned above.

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