Brilliant two-mile chaser Douvan features among 11 entries for a superb renewal of the £150,000 G1 Betfair Tingle Creek Chase (2.55pm), highlight of day two of the Betfair Tingle Creek Christmas Festival at Sandown Park on Saturday, December 9.
The Willie Mullins-trained seven-year-old was the highest-rated Jump horse of the 2016/2017 season after an excellent campaign that included an eight-length defeat of subsequent Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Sizing John in the G1 Paddy Power Cashcard Chase at Leopardstown in December.
His only defeat came in the G1 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham in March, when he was found to be lame after trailing home seventh. Betfair make the Susannah Ricci-owned chaser a 4/5 chance to gain a ninth G1 success at Sandown Park on Saturday.
Mullins has also given an entry to defending champion Un De Sceaux (10/1 with Betfair), who followed up his success 12 months ago with G1 victories at Cheltenham in the re-scheduled Clarence House Chase and the Ryanair Chase.
Four Irish-trained entries also include two trained by Henry de Bromhead, successful in the 2011 Betfair Tingle Creek Chase with Sizing Europe. Special Tiara (25/1) gamely won last season’s Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase, while second-season chaser Ordinary World (25/1) was twice runner-up at G1 level in his first year over fences.
The home challenge looks set to be headed by Betfair’s 9/4 second-favourite Fox Norton, who has twice finished behind Douvan but is unbeaten in three starts since going down by a head to Special Tiara at Cheltenham in March.
Trained by Colin Tizzard, the seven-year-old stormed to victory in the G1 JLT Melling Chase at Aintree before ending his season when beating Un De Sceaux in the G1 Punchestown Champion Chase.
Fox Norton, who runs in the colours of the late Ann and Alan Potts, made an impressive seasonal return with a routine eight-length victory in the G2 Shloer Chase at Cheltenham on November 19.
Joe Tizzard, assistant to his father, commented today: “The Betfair Tingle Creek has been the plan for Fox Norton since the end of last season.
“We had a lovely run on his reappearance at Cheltenham, when he was mightily impressive.
“It will be interesting to see if Douvan comes over or not but we are looking forward to the challenge.
“Bryan Cooper will be riding him again. Fox Norton will do a piece of work tomorrow and then he will be build up into Saturday’s race.”
Paul Nicholls is aiming for an incredible 10th success in the Betfair Tingle Creek Chase and has two entries, headed by 13/2 chance Politologue. The John Hales-owned six-year-old fell at the final fence when leading in the G1 Doom Bar Maghull Novices’ Chase at Aintree in April, with his stable companion San Benedeto (20/1) capitalising to take the honours.
The duo re-opposed in the G2 188Bet Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter on November 7, when Politologue scored by two and a quarter lengths over San Benedeto.
Nicholls revealed today: “Politologue will run in the Betfair Tingle Creek, whereas San Benedeto is more likely to go for the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon on Sunday.
“Politologue is doing very well but needs to take another step up against the likes of Fox Norton and Douvan. We will see how performs against the top two-milers.”
Ar Mad (16/1, Gary Moore) and Sir Valentino (25/1, Tom George) will also re-oppose after being pulled up in the 188Bet Haldon Gold Cup, with last season’s G1 Henry VIII Novices’ Chase runner-up Charbel (20/1, Kim Bailey) and multiple G2 scorer Top Gamble (50/1, Kerry Lee) completing the entries.
Betfair spokesman Barry Orr commented today: “Since this race has been suggested as his likely season starter, Douvan has been all the rage in the ante-post market, resulting in his odds tumbling from a high of 4/1 to his current price of 4/5 but Fox Norton is race fit and playing at home, so, if anything, he may shorten in the coming days.
“Having said that, the market principals may not have everything their own way, with Politologue, a good winner of the Haldon Gold Cup, attracting decent each-way support.”
The Betfair Tingle Creek – Betfair prices:
4/5 Douvan, 9/4 Fox Norton, 13/2 Politologue, 10/1 Un De Sceaux, 16/1 Ar Mad, 20/1 Charbel, 20/1 San Benedeto, 25/1 Special Tiara, 25/1 Ordinary World, 25/1 Sir Valentino, 50/1 Top Gamble
Each Way 1/5 Odds 3 Places