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Stage set for a classic Tingle Creek renewal

Today’s meeting at Sandown will witness the 43rd running of The Tingle Creek Chase, since it was renamed in 1979. Paul Blake looks ahead to today’s encounter.

Formerly, the Benson and Hedges Gold Cup and then The Mecca Bookmakers’ Handicap Chase, the race was run 10 times before it eventually took on the name of the 1973 winner, Tingle Creek.

Greaneteen will be bidding for back-to-back success in this race for Paul Nicholls. This feat has been achieved six times in the race’s history, most recently by Moscow Flyer (2003 and 2004) and Kauto Star (2005 and 2006).

Standing in his way will be Nicky Henderson trained Shishkin and the Lambourn trainer is in bullish mood, declaring that the line-up for this year’s renewal shows that no-one was “ducking and diving” to avoid one another.

Shishkin, the best rated horse in the field by a distance, failed to deliver at Cheltenham in the Champion Chase last year, but Henderson believes that the 8-year-old Bay gelding is over that.

“I can guarantee he’s over the mega problem he had after Cheltenham. It’s going to be a big test”

“One or two people seem surprised [we’re running],” the trainer said. “If he was well he was always going to run and I’m sure the ground is going to be all right. We talked to Andrew [Cooper] earlier in the week and while it’s dry, it’s not that long since the racing was abandoned here because it was waterlogged.”

Clerk of the course, Cooper said on Friday: “The chase track has ridden a bit slower than it walks. After the first professional chase I changed it to good to soft, good in places, which is where it will sit overnight and I suspect where it will be tomorrow. There’s a lot of fresh track on both courses to open up to overnight.”

Paul Nicholls has dominated the race in recent times with a dozen winners to Nicky Henderson’s meagre two. That fact alone might steer supporters away from the current favourite and nobody really knows which Shishkin will turn up today.

Beyond the top two in the market, Edwardstone, trained by Alan King, is coming in for the most support. He certainly knows his way around this track, having prevailed in the Henry VIII Novice Chase in this meeting one year ago. The market suggests that this might be too soon for Edwardstone to take on the two at the head of the market.

The rest of the field are not also-rans to any degree. However, if the real Shiskin does turn up today, Nicky Henderson may just have plenty to celebrate.

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