Tony Calvin: Back Greaneteen right now for the Betfair Tingle Creek

Greaneteen ridden by Harry Cobden
TC is backing Greaneteen in next month's Betfair Tingle Creek

Tony Calvin makes the case for backing a rising star from Paul Nicholls' stable in next month's Betfair Tingle Creek at Sandown...

"It is clear that Nicholls targets the Haldon Gold Cup with horses he considers future Grade 1 performers and Tingle Creek possibles."

Haldon Gold Cup at 14:25 at Exeter on Tuesday

Given that I have such an oh-so-busy social life at the moment - and one not set to get any racier any time soon for obvious reasons - I had a bit of time of my hands on Sunday afternoon and the declarations for the Haldon Gold Cup at 14:25 at Exeter on Tuesday caught my attention.

Tuesday's Haldon Gold Cup is stepping stone to greatness

It may be just a "handicap" - although that should not be classed as a dirty word when it comes to assessing future Grade 1 stars - but this race has been won by some top-class horses down the years, most recently Cue Card, who won this by 26 lengths off a mark of 157 in 2012.

And going further back, an even better one in Best Mate, who strolled home by 20 lengths off the same mark in 2001.

He was joined in Exeter's hall of fame by no less than Edredron Bleu and Azertyuiop in the years immediately after.

So it can genuinely be used as a stepping stone to greatness. Win or lose, in fact.

Now, talk of Best Mate really did get my memory whirring, as I was at Exeter the day the three-time Gold Cup winner's career, and life, came to an end in this race in 2005.

I was working in the Betfair PR department back then, and had been in close contact with owner Jim Lewis in the previous weeks as we were hoping to get his horse to the inaugural running of the Betfair Chase, and I vividly remember him coming into the paddock and embracing me in floods of tears with news of his beloved's demise.

It was a long train journey home to London, I can tell you.

It therefore seems a touch crass to recall a certain Kauto Star was somehow beaten, off a mark of just 149, by Monkherhostin in the handicap that day but he was still on his way to the aforementioned greatness just over a month later when winning his first Tingle Creek.

The reason I mention all of this is that Paul Nicholls' Greaneteen could well be the next top-class chaser off the Ditcheat star conveyor belt, and he kicks off his season off a mark of 151 in the Haldon on Tuesday.

And, who knows, maybe this horse could be tasting Sandown Grade 1 success next month, too.

History certainly suggests it is not out of the realms of possibility - though I have no knowledge that it is "the plan" - but bear with me a moment before I get on to that.

I texted Paul Nicholls on Sunday morning to (half-jokingly) suggest he should consider stepping Cyrname back down in trip to contest the Tingle Creek, Kauto Star-stylee - the superstar enjoyed a second helping of the 2m Esher Grade 1 pot in 2006 after winning the Betfair Chase over 3m just a fortnight earlier, and the King George just 24 days afterwards. Paul replied with four crying face emojis (they are probably crying with laughter on second inspection).

I hate emojis and don't understand what most of them mean but even I gathered that probably equated to "No Chance".

A rare mistake, perhaps.

NichollsYard1280.jpg

Cyrname would probably win it, and would be bordering on odds-on (well maybe not quite) for the 2m contest if committed to running, so it is never too late to change your mind, Paul....

In the Charlie Hall winner's likely absence (it seems), Nicholls appears to have a strong Betfair Tingle Creek contender in the 2017 Haldon Cup winner Politologue, but I have a feeling that Greaneteen (who runs in the Giles colours who won this prize with Tchico Polos in 2010) is expected to take much higher rank this season than his current mark of 151 suggests.

Tuesday's Exeter betting strongly hints so, too. The first firm up on Sunday made him a 6/4 chance and, while you will definitely get much bigger in the lead-up to what appears a very competitive renewal (that firm are already 15/8), that does illustrate his potential for a bigger stage down the line.

It is clear that Nicholls targets the Haldon Gold Cup with horses he considers future Grade 1 performers and Tingle Creek possibles.

Besides Kauto Star, Politologue won the Tingle Creek on his next start after winning at Exeter off 154, though John Hales' monster Azertyuiop didn't have quite the same success first time around.

He unseated at Exeter before bumping into an upstanding Moscow Flyer at Sandown in 2003, though he went back to Devon and gained compensation the following year (though he again had to play second fiddle to Moscow Flyer a month later).

And Vibrato Valtat won the Haldon in 2015 before finishing third at 11/4 at Sandown.

You get the picture.

Get on Greaneteen right now for Tingle Creek

If Greaneteen wins on Tuesday - and he had a sighter of the track when obliging there in a maiden hurdle last year - then you have to think Sandown is on the agenda next month, and I suggest you back him at {21.0] or bigger on the Exchange - or 20/1 with the Betfair Sportsbook right now.

He will almost certainly need to win at Exeter on Tuesday to go there - so in effect you are backing a double - but Kauto Star and Politologue showed that is not necessarily the case. And even last year's runner-up Dolos took his chance at Sandown as a 25/1 poke.

And Greaneteen could well shine in an unfortunate defeat, for all we know.

The vibes surrounding the horse appear very positive - although he curiously wasn't mentioned in an ATR stable tour last month, although as a cynic, I take that as a positive - but they are borne out of considerable promise from him on the track last season, not recent Ditcheat-hill gossip.

Not many novices jumped better than he did last term, with his round of fencing at Fakenham a particular joy to watch, and he backed up the visuals with a good performance on the clock at Musselburgh, too.

On the back of his three successes - he also won around Ascot, and that takes some doing on your chasing debut - he went to the Grand Annual as a well-backed 5/1 chance, only to finish fourth.

I am being more than a touch harsh in saying only, as that was a career-best effort off 150 - and one that saw him raised 1lb for it, despite him being beaten over five lengths - and you had to love the way he stuck to his task there after missing out the second-last and perhaps not getting the ideal pitch on the inner.

That experience will have done him the world of good, as well as proving he can knuckle down when things don't go his way, and he just looks the archetypal Nicholls' improver that will keep on progressing under the stable's expert care after just four starts over fences.

The 2m division wouldn't scare you unduly this year, either.

Altior is the 7/2 favourite for the Sandown race and won it in 2018 (as well as being unbeaten in five starts at the track), and this is his opening target, but he is nearly 11 now and has had his problems, and the 2019 victor Defi Du Seuil completely blew out as a 2/5 favourite when we last saw him in the Champion Chase in March.

He is a 4/1 chance, and then it is 11s bar those two if you shop around, so the potential for a young pretender like the six-year-old Greaneteen to step forward at Sandown is clear and obvious.

I wouldn't go mad at all but I'd take the 20s win-only (though the Tingle Creek does often cut up if you want to be braver and play each way) before he hopefully does the business in style at Exeter (with 16s+ acceptable).

And then hope Nicholls' tried-and-trust Exeter-Sandown MO will see him rock up next month (the fact that he does have the Champion Chaser and 2017 winner Politologue for the race does muddy the waters a bit, but they obviously have different owners), and announce himself as the new main man of the 2m chasing division.

His racing style could be tailor-made for Sandown's test, a race in which Nicholls' recent winners number not only Politologue but also Dodging Bullets, Master Minded and Twist Magic.

You may want to chance him at 40/1 for the Champion Chase with the Sportsbook as well, too. Chacun Pour Soi is the 6.25/1 favourite for that, but he is unlikely to go to Sandown by the sounds of it.

Azertyuiop may have unseated at the first at Exeter in 2003 but he ended up winning the Champion Chase by eight lengths that season!

Sandown 5th Dec (Betfair Tingle Creek)

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Saturday 5 December, 12.00pm

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Altior
Greaneteen
Politologue
Rouge Vif
Defi Du Seuil
Duc Des Genievres
Magic Saint
Waiting Patiently
Fox Norton
Brewinupastorm
Castlegrace Paddy
Simply The Betts
First Flow
Esprit Du Large
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