The puzzling, disconcerting decision to take Altior out of Saturday’s Tingle Creek leaves us with a race in which none of the five runners is entirely convincing. Politologue is a short price for a horse with one win from his last seven starts and might easily need this first run back.
A chance is taken at double-figure odds on Brewin’upastorm (2.25), a classy hurdler who always looked likely to make a better chaser. Inexperience caught him out in the Arkle but he faces half as many rivals here and his stable is going a lot better than when he made a disappointing reappearance.
1.30 Aintree Walk In The Mill seems sure to go close once more as he tries to become the first to win three Becher Chases but Coo Star Sivola looks a serious opponent. He got tired on his first start for 20 months but raced with plenty of zest for a long way and has dropped to a mark 5lb below the one he had when winning at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival.
1.50 Sandown A couple of four-year-olds are at the head of the betting for this Henry VIII but their generation hasn’t won it since 2008 and this might be a tough test after Thursday’s rain. Eldorado Allen shaped with bundles of promise at Cheltenham and is preferred.
2.05 Aintree The ex-German Megan impressed on her hurdling debut, the pick of the available form, and can do better with the benefit of that experience.
2.40 Aintree This is quite a demanding first run back for Santini, who could just be found wanting for fitness. Native River won this last year, seems to be helped by blinkers and can come out on top once more.
3.00 Sandown He found lots of ways to get beat last season but Cloudy Glen is only seven and put up a career best on his reappearance. It’s interesting that Trevor Hemmings has chosen to keep him and he seems the pick of a weakish London National field.
Tips by Chris Cook
11.45 Danehill Kodiac 12.20 Clan Legend 12.55 Hunters Call (nap) 1.30 Coo Star Sivola 2.05 Megan 2.40 Native River 3.15 Swift Crusader (nb)
11.52 Witness Protection 12.27 Kiteinahurricane 1.02 Blaster Yeats 1.37 One Style 2.12 Stainsby Girl 2.47 Rock On Barney 3.22 Eileendover
12.05 Paros 12.40 Mickyh 1.15 Frenchy Du Large 1.50 Eldorado Allen 2.25 Brewin'upastorm 3.00 Cloudy Glen 3.35 Nickolson
12.12 Oscar Elite 12.47 Last Encounter 1.22 Exploiteur 1.57 Bobo Mac 2.32 Ask Me Early 3.07 Pellady 3.45 Getastar
4.00 Hector's Here 4.30 Amor Fati 5.00 Emperor Spirit 5.30 Zamaani 6.00 Newscaster 6.30 Araifjan 7.00 He's A Keeper 7.30 Siavash 8.00 Global Walk
3.15 Aintree The small Worcestershire yard of Sam Drinkwater is suddenly on fire, with winners at 40-1 and 33-1 this week, so it could be worth chancing Swift Crusader at the bottom of the weights for this Grand Sefton. He is handily rated on the pick of his form and has gone well fresh.
3.35 Sandown After quite a spell with a low strike-rate, the Olly Murphy yard has had a productive week and this is a chance for Nickolson to start making good on his reputation. He looks fairly treated for this handicap debut but it’s a hot race. CC
Altior misses Tingle Creek over soft-ground concerns
The first Grade One card in Britain since March with paying spectators in the stands was robbed of one of its main attractions on Friday evening when Altior, the odds-on favourite for the Tingle Creek Chase, was taken out of the race by Nicky Henderson, his trainer, owing to concerns about the testing ground at Sandown Park.
Altior surrendered an unbeaten 19-race winning streak over jumps when he was beaten on soft ground at Ascot on his seasonal debut in November 2019, and Henderson said he had watched the racing at Sandown on Friday before taking the decision to scratch the 10-year-old.
“It is with a heavy heart we have decided that Altior is not going to run,” Henderson said. “We simply don’t want to bottom him again given what happened last year. Everyone has seen how testing the ground was today and we’re not going to ask him to do it again.
“We’re very sorry to everyone who was looking forward to seeing him and it was a very tough decision for the Pughs [Altior’s owners], but we’ve got to do the best thing by the horse.
“It’s tough, and if there was any further rain forecast we may have left the decision until the morning, but it will be very holding ground and very hard work.”
Altior’s abrupt removal from Saturday’s big-race field followed several suggestions from Henderson that he was looking forward to running one of his stable stars for the first time since February. Altior’s performance in a recent schooling session was described as “electric”, and the ground at Sandown had deteriorated only slightly since Thursday, from good-to-soft, soft in places to soft, good-to-soft in places.
You can never get enough of watching stars like Altior (dark jacket, @NdeBoinville) and Epatante (@JerrymcGrath) go through their paces so here is their workout at @NewburyRacing in full. 🏇🏇#LadbrokesWinterCarnival @sevenbarrows @RichardHoiles pic.twitter.com/NtDlITShlP
— Racing TV (@RacingTV) November 17, 2020
In Altior’s absence, Politologue, last season’s winner of the Queen Mother Champion Chase, is expected to start favourite for the Tingle Creek ahead of Greaneteen, his stable companion at the Paul Nicholls yard.
Nico de Boinville, who was due to ride Altior, registered a Grade Two success on Friday aboard a possible star of the future when Star Gate quickened clear of two opponents to win the Grade Two Ballymore Novice Hurdle.
Three-runner races on heavy ground do not always produce form to rely on, not least when, as here, the pace is moderate to slow. Star Gate, though, appeared to win despite the conditions, taking command between the final two flights before quickening further clear of Valleres up the hill.
The winner was de Boinville’s first ride for Evan Williams, who was at Exeter to see Bold Plan snap the stable’s 45-runner losing streak since Coole Cody’s victory in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham in mid-November, less than half an hour before Star Gate completed an across-the-cards double.
“I was really impressed,” De Boinville said. “We didn’t go much of a gallop early on, but he certainly quickened up well and he was very impressive over the last and quickened all the way to the line.
“I do this job because of horses like that, they get you out of bed in the morning. He’s still such a raw horse and there’s so much more to come from him, it was very much about looking after him, getting him jumping and away we went.”
Star Gate was cut to 25-1 (from 40-1) for the Grade One version of the Ballymore at Cheltenham in March, though Williams does not seem inclined to plan any further than the winner’s next race.
“He’s a nice young horse, but he’s one for the future,” the trainer said. “It was a muddling type of a race, and you can read lots into these things but the reality is that he got the job done and it’s all part of his education.” GW