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Greaneteen has Celebration sparkle at Sandown

Greaneteen lowered the colours of Altior with a stylish success in the bet365 Celebration Chase at Sandown.

Not beaten far into fourth in the Champion Chase at Cheltenham, the seven-year-old showed he will be a real force to be reckoned with next season as he showed a very smart turn of foot.

Nico de Boinville adopted different tactics on 9-4 favourite Altior, who was wearing first-time cheekpieces. He shot into an early lead and on the way round put in some spectacular leaps.

Approaching the Pond Fence, though, Greaneteen and Sceau Royal both closed in to challenge and when De Boinville drifted off the rail, Bryony Frost did not need asking twice to take the invitation on Greaneteen.

Just 35 minutes after partnering Frodon to victory in the Oaksey Chase, Frost was full of confidence on the 13-2 shot who scampered clear.

Just like a true champion, Altior stuck to his task and was closing again at the line, but he was unable to match Paul Nicholls’ charge for speed at a crucial period of the race and went down by three and three-quarter lengths.

Nicholls said: “He ran very well in the Tingle reek here behind Politologue when the ground was soft enough and he was too free in the Game Spirit, but he’s now starting to relax.

“Today Bryony realised what Nico was doing and she had the sense to follow Altior. It was a great move by her getting a lead into the straight.

“I’m not in a mad hurry to go over two and a half miles with him and his target will be back here for the Tingle Creek.”

Frost said: “I said coming in the car I hoped it was going to be a good day for us and thankfully it really has been.

“Altior looked to be on a going day and that he wouldn’t be coming back to us in a hurry, so I allowed the gap to reduce coming down the hill.

“This horse has one chink in his armour in that he can be a bit too keen, but he’s learning to settle and I have a 100 per cent strike-rate on him from winning a novice hurdle on him to winning the Celebration Chase today.

“The season has had its brilliant highs and serious lows, but I’ve ended up on the 47-winner mark which is close to matching my best.”

Altior in full flight
Altior in full flight (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Although beaten, Nicky Henderson was delighted to see Altior run with much more zest, on his first start since a lacklustre outing Christmas.

He said: “It’s a long time since he’s had a run and he just got a bit tired in the end, but he’s done nothing wrong at all and really enjoyed himself.

“I think he still has that old spark. All things are up for discussion.

“We were all set for Cheltenham, then came that nasty tracheal wash and it was a rush to get him here, but as you could see he still jumps and can still go a rare old gallop.”

When asked if Altior would return next season, Henderson said: “I see no reason why not.”

Altior all set for Celebration time at Sandown

Nicky Henderson will be hoping there are no last-minute dramas and that Altior can prove he is no back-number ahead of his bid for a fourth victory in the bet365 Celebration Chase.

It has been a frustrating season for the once-unbeatable Seven Barrows superstar, with a combination of factors restricting him to just the one competitive appearance.

The 11-year-old missed an intended outing in the Tingle Creek at Sandown in early December due to unsuitable ground conditions – and when he did eventually return in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton a few weeks later, he was laboured in defeat behind Nube Negra.

Henderson was optimistic of a much-improved performance in the Queen Mother Champion Chase last month, but for the second season in succession, Altior missed out on a Queen Mother Champion Chase hat-trick bid following a late setback.

With cheekpieces fitted for the first time, hopes are high Altior can silence the doubters on the final day of the campaign.

“I am delighted to say that everything has gone very well in the lead-up to this race and, barring mishap over the next 24 hours, he goes there at the top of his game and in flying form,” Henderson told Unibet.

“He hasn’t raced on ground like this for quite some time, but we worked him on our grass gallop during the week with a couple of lead horses and he absolutely bounced off the surface so there shouldn’t be any excuses where that’s concerned.

“Obviously Put The Kettle On is a very talented mare and Sceau Royal is a big danger too, but we are all happy with Altior and the cheekpieces could help. It’s just great to get him back on track!”

Put The Kettle On (centre) has won the Arkle and Queen Mother in the last two years
Put The Kettle On (centre) has won the Arkle and Queen Mother in the last two years (David Davies/Jockey Club)

Put The Kettle On became the first mare to win the Champion Chase at Cheltenham – her second Festival success following victory in the Arkle 12 months earlier.

Trainer Henry de Bromhead, who also saddles Ornua, is keen to discover whether Put The Kettle on can prove as effective at Sandown as she is at Prestbury Park.

He said: “She’s unreal, she’s savage to do what she did in the Champion Chase, it was unbelievable. She loves it at Cheltenham.

“I don’t know whether it’s the travelling, Aidan Coleman or whatever – this week will tell us if it’s just Cheltenham, but we’ll gradually narrow it down as to what makes her tick over there.”

Paul Nicholls fires a twin assault, with Champion Chase fourth Greaneteen joined by course-and-distance-winning stablemate Dolos.

“Greaneteen ran very well in the Champion Chase and surprised a lot of people. He was second in the Tingle Creek here and we’ve kept him for this race,” said the Ditcheat handler.

“It’s an open race, I think. Altior has got a bit to prove possibly over two miles, but he likes it round there, and the one to beat is the Champion Chase winner.

“Dolos absolutely loves Sandown and quick ground. He’s a massive price for a horse with his rating and his record at the track.”

Alan King’s Sceau Royal endured a troubled run on his way to finishing fifth in the Champion Chase.

Sceau Royal will be suited by the ground
Sceau Royal will be suited by the ground (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“It looks a helluva race, but our horse is in great nick,” said King.

“We had no luck at all in the Queen Mother, but he’s come out of it in good order and shouldn’t mind the ground, I don’t think.

“Let’s hope he’ll run very well.”

On the day he is crowned champion conditional jockey, Danny McMenamin bids for Grade One glory aboard Ann Hamilton’s Nuts Well.

Winner of the Old Roan Chase at Aintree in the autumn, the 10-year-old returned to the Merseyside venue to finish second to Irish challenger Fakir d’Oudairies in the Marsh Chase a couple of weeks ago.

Of Nuts Well’s prospects this weekend, McMenamin said: “He’s up against it, but hopefully he can run a nice race. I’m sure he won’t disappoint anyone.

“He’s a little dude and very straightforward to ride. He’s been climbing the ladder quietly away and I think people sometimes slightly underestimate him.

“It’s not a shock to me when he runs a good race up against the big lads.”

McMenamin’s decision to target the conditional riders’ championship has paid a handsome dividend, as he secured a comfortable victory over Bryan Carver.

He said: “It hasn’t quite sunk in yet. It’s been a brilliant season. The first couple of seasons were slow and steady, just trying to get the experience. This last season was all ‘go for it’, and it’s paid off on the end.

“I had it in mind (being champion conditional) at the start of the season, but I knew it wouldn’t be easy. I said I’d give it a go and not get too upset if it didn’t happen. Luckily enough, it’s worked out well.”

The 20-year-old hails from Downpatrick, like Grand National-winning rider Tony Dobbin, and follows in the footsteps of Sir Anthony McCoy and Brian Hughes, who are also from Northern Ireland and won the conditional competition.

McMenamin added: “It’s a bit surreal to be mentioned alongside the previous winners.

“My mum and Tony Dobbin are very good friends and the whole town was talking about Tony Dobbin winning the National and how well his career had gone over the years.

“He’s somebody I looked up to and he helped me make the decision to come across (to Britain) and give it a go. He’s been a great role model.

“AP McCoy is the best of them all and Brian Hughes is the best in the north. He was champion jockey last year and was right there for it this year. It’s brilliant to have names like that coming from Northern Ireland and coming over here and doing well.”

While McMenamin is thrilled to land the prize, he paid tribute to his parents who have worked as carers throughout the pandemic.

He said: “Mum and dad both work in a care home looking after elderly people, so they’ve been working hard this year – they’ve probably worked harder than me, to be honest.

“They’ve worked every day since Covid started – they deserve the credit this year.”