Only three weekends to go now until Christmas is upon us once more, but as ever we can count on the National Hunt season to deliver an early present or two. Chasing is the name of the game this week, with a true A-lister of the equine world making his comeback at Sandown, and one of the sport’s greatest spectacles taking place on Merseyside. Let’s take a closer look at exactly what we have in store.
Returning Superstar Enough To Make The Spine Tingle
It may not be the most open of betting races, but that won’t stop the eyes of the racing world focussing firmly upon the Betfair Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown Park this coming Saturday. The reason for so much attention is the return to the track of one of the most talented – possibly THE most talented – performers in the National Hunt game.
Nicky Henderson’s mighty Altior has been just about untouchable for the last three seasons now, winning his past 14 races, including the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, the Arkle Chase and the Queen Mother Champion Chase. Still only eight years old, will anything be able to get near him this year? The compilers certainly like his chances here with the 8/13 available with Betfair being as good as it gets.
It remains to be seen whether the likes of Footpad, Min and Un De Sceaux make the journey over from Ireland for this, but the domestic challenge looks strong in its own right with the likes of Alan King’s Sceau Royal, and Harry Whittington’s Saint Calvados amongst the current entries.
Lalor The New King In Henry VIII?
The Tingle Creek Chase may be the headline act, but it isn’t the only Grade 1 Chase on the Sandown card. Prior to the return of the king in the days feature we have a field of the very best novice chasers in the game going to post in the randoxhealth.com Henry VIII Novices’ Chase. Much like in the big race itself, we look set to have a pretty short priced favourite lining up in this one, with the Kayley Woollacott trained, Lalor, set to make his second start of the season.
If this six year old repeats anything close to his performance in the Arkle Trial at Cheltenham last time out, he may prove very tough to beat indeed. A field of highly regarded performers from the top yards didn’t see which way he went that day in what was a most impressive chase debut. He’s a 4/6 shot with Coral for this on the back of that success. Chief amongst the opposition are the improving Pacific De Baune from the Nicky Henderson yard, and Gary Moore’s four-timer seeking Diakali.
Big Fences Return In The Big One At Aintree
Sandown Park may boast the big Grade 1 contest of the day, but the most spectacular show seems set to come at Aintree as we are given our first glimpse of the Grand National fences this season in the Becher Chase. There are few more thrilling sights in the sport than seeing the top-class chasers tackle the likes of the Chair, Valentines and Bechers Brook, and we will no doubt be in for seven minutes or so of high drama once again this year.
Only 5lbs higher than when trotting in by nine lengths in this twelve months ago, the Nigel Twiston-Davies trained pocket rocket, Blaklion, is amongst the favourites once again at 7/1 with BetVictor. Stablemate Ballyoptic and recent back to back Badger Ales Trophy winner, Present Man, are amongst those in opposition in what looks set to be a cracker.