Very few race horses attain a level of popularity that thrusts them into the conscience of a wider public audience. Fewer still achieve such a following that a race is named after their exploits.
In the 1970’s the two mile chaser called Tingle Creek, illuminated Sandown Park racecourse with a string of exhilarating performances and breath taking jumping that drew audiences far and wide.
When the horse retired, the Tingle Creek Chase was established in his honour and for many years during the 1980s, the old boy would appear and parade at his beloved Sandown Park before the race took place.
The inaugural race was won in 1979 by another popular veteran in Artifice and the handicap chase was quickly established as an important stepping stone for the leading two mile chasers of the season, when the classy News King followed up with successive wins in 1981 and 1982.
The race gained even greater kudos in 1987 and 1988 when the legendary Desert Orchid was first beaten by Long Engagement and then won the race in what proved to be his Gold Cup season. His trainer David Elsworth used the race as a stepping stone to Dessie’s King George VI Chase races – a pattern that would be repeated some 20 years later by another super star.
Long Engagement won another renewal in 1989 before Young Snugfit defeated an ageing Desert Orchid in 1990. With the race having become established as a Grade 1 chase, the popular Waterloo Boy took the next two runnings and Viking Flagship, dual Champion Chase winner, won in 1994. The exciting young Irish chaser Sound Man won back to back renewals in 1995 and 1996, defeating the tough Viking Flagship and Direct Route was a popular winner in 1998, before Flagship Uberalles won three Tingle Creeks.
The classy Moscow Flyer was a wonderful winner in 2003 and the following year won a memorable renewal, defeating Champion Chase winner Azertyioup and the exciting Well Chief in a thrilling race. If Moscow Flyer was a tough act to follow, in 2005 Paul Nicholls unleashed another legend of the sport in Kauto Star, who was another dual winner, using the race in 2006 as a launch pad for his first King George and Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Remarkably, Kauto Star’s two wins were the first of six successive wins in the race for trainer Paul Nicholls, who would follow-up with Twist Magic and Champion Chaser Master Minded, both winning the race twice.
Another Champion Chaser in Sizing Europe, dominated the race in 2011 and he was followed by the exciting Sprinter Sacre, who demolished his field in 2012, before winning the Champion Chase at Cheltenham.
With Sprinter Sacre an absentee in 2013, the door opened for a new champion and it was Sire De Grugy, a popular chestnut with a big white face, who stepped up to the plate and landed the Tingle Creek before dominating the two mile division.
In 2014, both Sire De Grugy and Sprinter Sacre were on the sidelines and once again it was a young up and coming horse who filled the breach, as Dodging Bullets beat Somersby, runner-up for the second year running.
A new order was thus established, and come Cheltenham and the Queen Mother Champion Chase, Dodging Bullets again beat Somersby in a race containing both former champions. Once again, the Tingle Creek Chase had proved the significant race in determining the year’s hierarchy of two mile chasers as for the third year running the winner went on to be crowned champion.
In 2015, it was Dodging Bullets’ turn to be sidelined, while Sprinter Sacre was on the comeback trail but missed Sandown Park. Whilst Sire De Grugy had disappointed earlier in the autumn, the Gary Moore team came to Sandown Park in December in remarkable form.
In the race, Henry de Bromhead’s spectacular chaser Special Tiara took the field along, but as they left the back straight Sire De Grugy came to challenge and went on into the lead.
Controversy followed as at the last fence Sire De Grugy appeared to jump across his rival, hampering him in the process. Special Tiara rallied late on in a stirring finish, but just failed to catch his opponent. A Stewards’ Enquiry ensued, but Sire De Grugy kept the race to win his second Tingle Creek.
This capped an extraordinary meeting for Gary Moore, who trained a treble at Sandown Park on consecutive days, also winning the Grade 1 Henry VIII Novices’ Chase with Ar Mad.
Un De Sceaux had made his name as something of a tearaway in his youth – albeit a highly talented one.
The Willie Mullins horse was renowned for building up wide-margin leads and not coming back to his field and at one time had been a Champion Hurdle contender.
His talent transferred to chasing and he landed the Arkle Chase in 2015. In fact, his only two defeats in his first sixteen races came when he fell. However, he had proved no match for the resurgent Sprinter Sacre in the spring of 2016, before running twice in France.
With Sprinter Sacre retired, Un De Sceaux returned to action in the 2016 Tingle Creek Chase and recorded a hard fought length victory over Sire De Grugy and God’s Own.
On the day that Un De Sceaux won his Tingle Creek Chase, jump racing’s next two-mile superstar, Altior, was making his mark in the Grade One Henry VIII Novices’ Chase.
Altior would go on to win the Arkle, but a wind operation meant that his return to action was delayed and he was not present at Sandown for the 2017 Tingle Creek.
As had happened a few time in recent years, this renewal looked a transitional race, one in which a new star might emerge.
Fox Norton had already served notice on his considerable talent, whilst Ar Mad had been a runaway winner of the big novice chase two years earlier.
Ar Mad cut out the running, but a young Harry Cobden steered the Paul Nicholls grey Politologue to victory over Fox Norton.
Altior returned to action in early 2018, had won preparation race and landed the Queen Mother Champion Chase and the Celebration Chase at Sandown Park, for good measure.
The Champion was back in action in the 2018 Tingle Creek Chase and took on three rivals, headed by Un De Sceaux, who by this stage was in the veteran category.
Un De Sceaux gave Altior plenty to think about, but after the last fence, the latter pulled away for a four-length victory. Altior would go to land a second Queen Mother Champion Chase in the spring.
The Tingle Creek has thus established itself as a fitting tribute to an exciting chaser of the 1970s and one of the most significant two mile chases of the entire season. It is fair to say it is the big early season target for the best horses at this distance.
|1983||no race 1983|
|2000||Flagship Uberalles ]|
|2013||Sire De Grugy|
|2015||Sire De Grugy|
|2016||Un De Sceaux|