Punters are rubbing their hands in anticipation as ALTIOR makes his return at Sandown Park for their big chase race of the season, the Tingle Creek.
Since finishing in midfield in a Punchestown bumper in April 2015, ALTIOR is unbeaten in 14 starts over hurdles and fences, taking in six Grade 1 victories, among them a Supreme, an Arkle and a Champion Chase.
He is also three from three at Sandown and he quite clearly goes superbly when fresh, as a certain Politologue found out at Newbury in February during ALTIOR’S first run back after a wind op. He’s more than a worthy 4/6 favourite with Carrigill’s but may well go off shorter so get on now.
SAINT CALVADOS and SCEAU ROYAL, who won the Lightning at Doncaster, could be his strongest rivals tomorrow (Saturday) whilst the Willie Mullins’ trio of UN DE SCEAUX, who is also a potent force when fresh, GREAT FIELD and MIN warrant respect. The former was only confirmed as a runner on Wednesday and has been supported at 5-1 and better.
Trainer Alan King says SCEAU ROYAL is ready to rumble with ALTIOR and co and this is the natural race to run him in as he won the Henry VIII over course and distance on this card last year.
ALTIOR’S handler Nicky Henderson also holds the key to the December Handicap (2.25) with course specialist CALL ME LORD threatening to keep many of his rivals out of the weights, and the champion trainer has also entered APPLE’S SHAKIRA, but I like TOTTERDOWN from the Richard Phillips yard.
He’s 10lb higher after running his rivals into the ground when making all over course and distance a month ago, and although this is a stronger race, he looks to be a handicapper going places and will relish the soft ground.
At the time of writing it’s also good to soft at Aintree, and with more rain due before Saturday THEATRE TERRITORY is surely the horse to beat in the Becher (1.30) after a superb comeback run at Cheltenham.
She mixed it with the likes of Mister Whitaker and Ms Parfois last season, but she ran a career-best when just hauled in on the run-in on her reappearance, after travelling superbly and jumping her rivals silly for most of the contest.
That was her first run after a wind op, and last year’s Topham third looks to have come back an improved mare. Because the handicappers weren’t allowed to raise her for that defeat - it’s a new (ish) rule - she is unofficially well-in here and could have gone up 7lb to a mark of 139. However, she is currently 2lb out of the handicap, so connections will want the weights to go up.
In the Grand Sefton Chase (3.15) Dan Skelton’s BORN SURVIVOR looked better than ever when reappearing at Wetherby last month, and the lightly raced seven-year-old should be able to cope with this 4lb higher mark.
DEFINITELY RED is a clear 6/4 favourite with Carrigill’s for his defence in the Many Clouds Chase at 2.05. He started his season with a fine win in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby last month and it promises to be another good season for Brian Ellison’s highly admirable stayer.
Local connections of NONIOS were delighted with his return to the track on Tuesday when he ran a strong race to finish second to Godolphin shorty at Lingfield, and is one to back next time out. Look for an engagement for David Simcock’s son of Oasis Dream over the Christmas period.