Altior fights off Un De Sceaux to take Tingle Creek at Sandown
On a gloomy day in Surrey, Nicky Henderson’s star extended his winning streak to 15
Nico de Boinville riding Altior (R) clears the last to win The Betfair Tingle Creek Chase from Un De Sceaux (L) at Sandown Park. Photo: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images
Altior survived a heavy downpour and a determined Un De Sceaux to extended his winning streak to 15 in the Betfair Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown.
Nicky Henderson’s star was unproven on such testing ground and faced arguably his toughest test to date up against Un De Sceaux, Sceau Royal and Saint Calvados.
As expected Saint Calvados and Un De Sceuax made sure there was no hanging about — but Nico de Boinville was intent to not let them get too far ahead.
With the exception of jumping too big at the open ditch early on, Altior’s fencing was at its slickest, although Un De Sceaux made him pull out all the stops.
Turning in it seemed a matter of ‘how far’ for Altior as he loomed alongside the diminutive Un De Sceaux, but Willie Mullins’ multiple Grade One winner did not go down without a fight.
When Altior got in slightly tight to the last it gave Ruby Walsh chance to steal a length, but as he has done in the past, the 8-13 favourite powered up the hill to win going away.
Henderson: “That was special, I think that was really testing him today and, like Buveur D’Air last week, if he was going to get beat it would have been today.
“When you have genuine championship horses it is great people appreciate them, but it does make you feel the pressure.
“They were four very good horses in horrible ground today and they’ve all run their best.”
Earlier, Dynamite Dollars turned the form from his previous race on its head to win the randoxhealth.com Henry VIII Novices’ Chase, with Lalor only third.
Lalor had looked so impressive at Cheltenham when winning on his chasing debut with Dynamite Dollars seven lengths back in second — but Paul Nicholls has not been a multiple champion trainer by shying away from a challenge and took him on again.
Unfortunately for favourite-backers, Lalor never looked completely happy on much softer ground and going right-handed, as Diakali and Irish raider Ornua set a searching early pace.
When Diakali dropped away, Ornua was left in front under young Dylan Robinson, but Dynamite Dollars (9-2) was stalking and Lalor struggling on back in third.
Jumping the last it looked as if Ornua may hold on, but Harry Cobden persevered on the 9-2 chance and he stayed on strongly up the hill to win by a length and three-quarters in a stirring finish to the Grade One affair.
At Aintree, Walk In The Mill stayed on stoutly to win the Becher Chase over the Grand National fences.
Trained by Robert Walford and ridden by James Best, the eight-year-old stuck to his task well after the final fence to beat previous winner Vieux Lion Rouge, with Ultragold — another previous winner over the fences — in third.
His connections will feel vindicated, after he got into the National in April as a reserve but then went lame on the morning of the race, meaning he could not take his place.
Walk In The Mill (10-1) had run a nice race in third on his seasonal return at Cheltenham behind The Young Master and barely put a foot wrong over the famous Liverpool birch.
Call It Magic and Missed Approach — who blew the start by 20 lengths — gave a bold sight out in front until the early exertions told on the latter.
Irish raider Call It Magic was still just about in front jumping the last, but he had been joined by Walk In The Mill, who went on to win by four and a half lengths. Call It Magic took fourth.
Highland Lodge, a standing dish in this race, got loose beforehand and ended up slithering towards the water jump. Thankfully he was fine to take his chance, but fell at The Chair.
Walford said: “We knew he was in good form. He jumped great, and James gave him a great ride as well.
“We know the plan — there’s only one way to go (Grand National).
“He’d been down to (David ) Pipe’s and schooled and jumped well down there — so we were quite happy with him.
“My wife rides him every day, and she’s done a brilliant job.
“His feet have been a massive problem — he just struggles with them. But David Bond, one of my owners, has done an amazing job shoeing him.
“He’ll get a run now (in the National) — that’s the main thing — so we probably won’t see him (out again) a huge amount.”
Owner and former amateur rider Dido Harding, who won the Gold Cup with Cool Dawn, said: “We were hoping to run him in the National in April, and he went lame overnight.
“So actually, from that day, this has been the target.
“Rob and Louisa (Walford’s wife) have done the most amazing job getting him here — and stopping me riding him as well, which is a big part of the training job, I fear.
“I think it will be hard to say no (to the National this time), after watching that. But I have to say the temptation to get the (riding) permit out would be really very strong.”
Best said: “I know this isn’t the National — but what a thrill. He’s just incredible, jumps from fence to fence.
“Midway through, I thought; ‘We could run a big race’. I thought; ‘Just throw him at the last’, land running — and away we’ve gone.
“April can’t come soon enough.”
Meanwhile, The Betway Many Clouds Chase brought highly-contrasting fortunes for two Aintree favourites as Definitly Red bagged the race again — but 2017 Grand National winner One For Arthur’s comeback ended in anti-climax.
Definitly Red followed up last year’s victory, and his success in last month’s Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby, as he ground out a four-and-a-half-length success after One For Arthur had unseated Tom Scudamore at the third fence.
Brian Ellison’s stable star won with the authority befitting a 1-2 favourite, too good for runner-up Double Shuffle and outsider Acdc in the four-runner field for the Grade Two.