Disappointing news arrived from Ireland yesterday with the withdrawal of Un De Sceaux from the Betfair Tingle Creek Chase on Saturday.
Mullins announced on social media that his Arkle winner would not run at the weekend having been ‘a little flat in himself the last few days.’ He is now likely to run over Christmas in the Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase at Leopardstown. The Champion Chase favourite had been a short price to win at Sandown, and his absence leaves the Paul Nicholls trained Vibrato Valtat as the new favourite.
Nicholls’ young chaser looked in tip-top shape when an impressive winner of the Haldon Gold Cup on his seasonal debut at Exeter. He comfortably beat Third Intention that day, though Tizzard’s fella has since been pulverised by Vautour and Ptit Zig, questioning the strength of that Exeter victory. However, Vibrato Valtat looks progressive and soft ground would certainly aid his chance of success. Nicholls has a sensational record in the race with seven victories in the last 10 years.
Another who looks likely to take his chance is Nicky Henderson’s talented chaser Simonsig. On the comeback trail after a lengthy spell on the side-lines, we all know how talented he was, though it was hard to judge the strength of his return, when just failing to overhaul Bobs Worth at Aintree. He did travel like a class act that day, and if he is back to anything like his best he will prove a threat on Saturday. However, it remains a huge ask to win the Tingle Creek having not jumped a fence in competition since March 2013.
Sire De Grugy is said to have ‘turned a corner’ in recent weeks with Gary Moore expecting a far better performance than his lifeless effort at Exeter behind Vibrato. He’s three from three at Sandown over fences, including a win in this race back in 2013. Like Simonsig, it is hard to rule him out yet just as hard to summon any real confidence in a major performance.
Henry De Bromhead struck at Newcastle last weekend when his Identity Thief took the Fighting Fifth Hurdle. He’ll attempt another successful raid when sending Special Tiara in to battle, the eight-year-old having won the Grade 1 Celebration Chase at the track in April. The bold front-runner can be spectacular over his obstacles, and could take some catching if he’s on a going day. He won the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton last Christmas and clearly loves these jaunts across the Irish Sea.
The loss of Mullins’ star chaser is a blow, yet the race still remains competitive and intriguing. Several have a reputation to rebuild and others will look to take advantage in the absence of the division’s leading lights.