By Tom Chilman: Sandown Park’s Tingle Creek Chase has provided us with some of the great two-mile chasers over the years, but last Saturday’s renewal may have just given us the best yet.
Sprinter Sacre’s delayed seasonal reappearance certainly reignited the excitement surrounding this year’s Arkle winner as the Nicky Henderson trained six-year-old slammed his rivals to win by 15 lengths.
All the pre-race talk was of a head-to-head battle between Sprinter Sacre and the Paul Nicholl’s trained Sanctuaire. That the race was billed as being such a close contest may have been down to Nicholl’s fantastic record in the race, having won six of the last eight, as what unfolded clearly showed the gulf in class between the two horses.
The rest of the field was made up of a mismatch of runners, with the sole exception being Alan King’s Kumbeshwar, an inconsistent sort looking to improve on a recent win over 2m at Haydock.
The tactics for Sanctuaire and Ruby Walsh were clear; ‘Try and out-pace Sprinter Sacre into submission’. But apart from a less than fluent jump at the fourth fence, the eventual winner never looked in trouble, and after tracking the clear front-runner for most of the race, he soon took it up three out and sauntered home under a motionless Barry Geraghty.
Kumbeshwar stayed on well up the run-in to take second place by just over four lengths from a weary Sanctuaire back in third.
The win gave trainer Nicky Henderson his first ever success in the race and a feeling that he had something very special on his hands.
“When you know something’s a bit special you just want it to stay that way”, said Henderson after the race.
“He has got that wow factor, of course he has, and we’ve always said it.
“That’s as good a two-mile chasing as you’ll see.”
Sprinter Sacre will probably be aimed next at the Victor Chandler Chase at Ascot in January on his way to the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Festival in March.
With the recent retirement of big names Frankel and Kauto Star from the racing world, there is a need for a new hero to step forward alongside the likes of Big Buck’s. Sprinter Sacre has now laid out his claims for all to see. All that’s left for us to do is embrace him.