Nube Negra, Chacun Pour Soi and Greaneteen – second, third and fourth in last season’s Queen Mother Champion Chase – all meet again in a high-class renewal of the Betfair Tingle Creek at Sandown.
Dan Skelton’s Nube Negra only found Put The Kettle On half a length too good in March and while he was below par at the Punchestown Festival, he returned to action with a classy victory over Politologue in the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham.
Chacun Pour Soi had Nube Negra – and stablemate Allaho – a long way behind him when hugely impressive at Punchestown, but his Cheltenham defeat, a first run outside of Ireland since joining Willie Mullins, does leave him with a small question to answer.
Patrick Mullins comes in for the ride for the first time with Paul Townend still sidelined, but his father does not see that as an issue.
“He’s a beautiful horse to ride, a lot of people still talk about the first day Danny (Mullins) took him schooling in Leopardstown with a camera on his helmet, he was poetry in motion. He’s very straightforward and push-button stuff,” said Mullins senior.
“Hopefully he’ll handle the ground and it’s not too firm on the back stretch, but I think he handles good ground all right. It doesn’t hold any fears for me or Patrick, just the usual big-race nerves. To get a ride in a race like this is huge for him.”
Paul Nicholls, who has won the race more than any other trainer and is looking for a 12th victory in the Grade One, ran Greaneteen in the Haldon Gold Cup first time out this season and while he faced a huge task at the weights that day, he is expected to strip much fitter on this occasion.
Nicholls also runs Hitman, second in the Haldon Gold Cup first time out on his first run since a wind operation.
He finished second to Allmankind in the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase on this card 12 months ago.
“They are in good shape and both schooled this morning,” Nicholls told Sky Sports Racing.
“Hitman looks amazing. He has come on enormously from Exeter, albeit he will have to. He is a decent horse and he will keep on improving. It is a good race and he will get a good lead. We are looking forward to him running.”
He went on: “Greaneteen obviously loves Sandown. He was second in the Tingle Creek last year and improved enormously through the spring to win the Celebration Chase at Sandown in April, so the decent ground will suit him and he’s in good nick.
“He was a bit keen and a bit fresh first time at Exeter – he needed the run, but I did tell everyone that was his prep race for this. He is a lot sharper and fitter than he was at Exeter and he is ready to go.”
The small but select field of five is completed by Henry de Bromhead’s Captain Guinness, the mount of Rachael Blackmore.
The due have already backed up their success in the major races in the UK last season by teaming up to win the Betfair Chase with A Plus Tard and go in search of another Grade One with last year’s Arkle third.
Allaho, Cheddleton and Defi Du Seuil were the three not declared at the 48-hour stage.
Chacun Pour Soi has been installed as the 11-10 favourite by the sponsors followed by Nube Negra at 5-2 and Greaneteen at 4-1.
Skelton will be aiming to follow up last year’s victory of Allmankind in the Close Brothers Henry VIII Novices’ Chase with Third Time Lucki, impressive in his two runs over fences to date.
Alan King’s Edwardstone, Donald McCain’s Minella Drama and Nicholls’ Il Ridoto are among a field of seven for the other Grade One on the card.