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Betfair Tingle Creek: Former champion can test Un de Sceaux's Cheltenham credentials

Ben Fearnley identifies an alternative to Un de Sceaux in this weekend's Betfair Tingle Creek at Sandown.

Although the mouth-watering clash between the resurgent Sprinter Sacre and the outstanding novice from last season, Un de Sceaux, will have to wait for another day, this year’s Tingle Creek holds plenty of intrigue, and has a favourite who would not look out of place in many of the other top-class renewals.

Un de Sceaux comes into the Tingle Creek with a Timeform Rating of 169p. The quality of the race is such that there have been eight renewals this century where Un de Sceaux’s current Timeform Rating would not have been high enough to see him top the pre-race figures. Of course, he is only a second-season chaser at the moment, and sitting somewhere between second-season versions of Kauto Star in 2005 (160p) and Sprinter Sacre in 2012 (180p) is no bad thing, especially as he is entering a division that lacked a top-class force last season.

It is important to note that as a novice Un de Sceaux achieved more on Timeform Ratings than the current champion chaser Dodging Bullets. He therefore already finds himself clear of the likes of Somersby, Special Tiara and Mr Mole, who were regulars at the two-mile top table last season, and with the prospect of more to come after just a handful of chase starts he should be very hard to beat in the Tingle Creek. Un de Sceaux’s exuberant front-running style should make for some spectacle over Sandown’s fences, but as far as betting prospects go, there is little juice in his current price.

However, with 10 horses still entered, and a long odds-on favourite, this year’s Tingle Creek does have the shape of a good each-way betting race.

Un de Sceaux is not the only Grade 1-winning novice chaser attempting to break into the division this season, and Paul Nicholls’ Vibrato Valtat is sure to prove popular with many as an alternative to the favourite. Vibrato Valtat has plenty going for him. He won the Grade 1 Henry VIII over C&D at this meeting last season, and returned with a career-best effort in the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter last month. Although his four-length defeat of Third Intention whilst receiving weight is not the best form on offer here, he is progressive, and could yet have more to offer. He was put in his place by Un de Sceaux when the pair met in the Arkle, but he was perhaps a shade better than the 13-length beaten distance suggests, and he does have place claims here. His current price of 7/2 leaves something to be desired, though, and we will continue our hunt for some each-way value.

There was plenty to like about Simonsig’s first run for the best part of three years at Aintree last month, even though he was unable to get by his tenacious stablemate Bobs Worth in the end after travelling into the race with much more gusto. Just how much of his ability he retains from his novice chasing campaign, after which he was rated 166P, is hard to say. A big part of his engine did seem to still be there at Aintree, but his current price assumes a little too much, and although he is arguably one of the most interesting horses in the line up, he is best watched.

Like Simonsig, Sire de Grugy is another horse that has not shown his best for some time, and is also arriving with something to prove. Gary Moore’s stable star capitalised on the absence of both of Nicky Henderson’s star two-mile chasers in the 2013/14 season, and racked up a five-timer which started in this race and included the Champion Chase at the Festival. Sire de Grugy’s best performance, when he won the Grade 1 Clarence House Stakes at Ascot by 11 lengths from Hidden Cyclone, stands up to the favourite’s form here, and even his win at Chepstow last season during his disrupted preparation for the Champion Chase would give him strong place claims. His current double-figure price can be put down to his disappointing reappearance effort, where he made a significant jumping error and finished well beaten behind Vibrato Valtat in the Haldon Gold Cup. Gary Moore has enjoyed a fruitful start to this season, but his horses have tended to come on for their reappearance, and if Sire de Grugy can follow suit, he is a strong candidate to make the places.

With the hype of Un de Sceaux, the hope for Simonsig, and the potential for Sprinter Sacre to face the winner of this race at the Festival, this year’s Tingle Creek will be highly anticipated. Contained within the epic race in prospect is a decent each-way bet, too, with 2013 winner Sire de Grugy taken at a double-figure price as an interesting value alternative to the favourite, with three places currently being paid.

Recommended bet:

Back Sire de Grugy each-way at 10/1 in the Tingle Creek

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