Un de Sceaux chasing tradition in Sandown’s Tingle Creek feature

The Last Samurai and Mouse Morris’s Rogue Angel tackle Aintree fences in Becher Chase

Sandown's Tingle Creek Chase is named after a horse famed for tackling the track's fences at speed in the 1970s, and Ruby Walsh will hope Un de Sceaux can live up to that tradition on Saturday.

Walsh is chasing a fourth win in the Grade 1 feature and even though it’s a decade since he won it on the peerless Kauto Star, the prospect of the free-wheeling Un de Sceaux tackling this two miles excites the champion jockey.

“It’s always a great race to watch and he’s always a good ride. It’s competitive but he’s top-rated and he’s an exciting horse to ride,” said Walsh who conceded he would prefer softer ground conditions for Willie Mullins’s runner.

With Ar Mad also in the race it's odds-on there will be no problems with pace, and English trainer Gary Moore also has last year's winner Sire de Grugy on his side.


The other extreme of the distance spectrum is going to be in focus at Aintree when some of the leading contenders for next April’s Grand National test-run the famous big fences in the Becher Chase.

Last season’s Grand National runner-up, The Last Samurai, tops the weights, while Mouse Morris gives his Irish National hero Rogue Angel a spin around the track in preparation for an attempt to emulate Rule The World’s memorable victory.

Other Irish-trained hopes are Gordon Elliott’s Ucello Conti, sixth in the National last April, Jim Dreaper’s Sizing Coal and the veteran Portrait King.

Jumping experience

Fairyhouse also hosts the first day of its Winter Festival on Saturday, and a year after finishing third to Long Dog and Bachasson in the Grade 1 Royal Bond Novice Hurdle Gunnery Sergeant returns to action in a maiden hurdle.

Unlike last year, this weekend’s Royal Bond renewal doesn’t have the shadow of a threat to its Grade 1 status hanging over it due to any dip in average rating of the top four horses involved.

“After the first two last year, albeit they were from the stable, and also looking ahead to the race this weekend, I’d be less worried about it than in past,” said senior National Hunt handicapper Noel O’Brien.

Gunnery Sergeant was a long way behind the first two on that occasion but he does bring that jumping experience to a clash with the high-class bumper performer Castello Sforza.

There may be a morning start to the Fairyhouse action but quick ground conditions will be unseasonal and that could prove significant for the lowly weighted Hello Sweetie in the mares handicap chase.

Bilko was originally thought to be on course for the Royal Bond but instead the Gigginstown team have switched him to a novice hurdle where he can remain at the 2½-mile trip he won his maiden over at Cork.

A stretch in trip for the opening Beginners Chase should also be ideal for Martello Tower who ran a race full of promise behind Anibale Fly at Naas recently.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column