With the National Hunt season now grabbing the racing headlines our latest blog, ‘A horse and a race that sends a Tingle down the spine’, by Grenville Davies, reviews the Tingle Creek Chase a spectacular race named after this exciting horse of the 1970s. This year's race is the feature of Saturday's card at Sandown.
For many racegoers, one of the joys of the National Hunt year is the Tingle Creek Chase run at Sandown at the beginning of December. It never fails to deliver a thrilling race run at breakneck speed - much like the horse himself.
Tingle Creek was a two mile chaser who enthralled fans in the late 1970s with his devil take the highmost look at life, and his catch me if you can attitude. In the words of his jockey Ian Watkinson, who along with Steve Smith-Eccles rode him to most of his successes, he just saw a fence and took off, so as to leave them behind as quick as he possibly could and to get to the other side. He was so quick over his fences that even Desert Orchid would have had trouble keeping pace with him, however his Achilles heel was soft ground and any mention of it in the description was like kryptonite to him.
Tingle Creek was trained by Harry Thompson-Jones a great dual-purpose trainer who attained the highest achievement under both codes with the likes of Frenchman’s Cove, Athens Wood and Touching Wood as well as the top miler Al Bahathri, who is remembered in Newmarket by a gallop named after her.
Sandown would prove to be a happy hunting ground for him, no doubt as the Railway Fences suited him down to the ground, for as he saw a fence, he was away and took off, quick slick fencing was his game. Ian Watkinson always felt Tingle Creek had great eye-sight and he could spot a fence way before any other horse, something like another great National Hunt giant - Red Rum had. Perhaps Specsavers should set-up eye tests for horses going jumping! Ian was once asked why do you go so fast on him, his reply “you don’t have any choice, just which direction you go”.
The Tingle Creek chase was first run in 1979 and up until 1993 was run as a handicap, since then it has been a Grade One championship race and its winners list is a Who’s Who of racing and by far the best performance in its formative years was in 1988 when Desert Orchid gave 20lbs and a twelve length beating to Jim Thorpe, with another great perennial Panto Prince a further length back in third in receipt of 18lbs.
Since it became a graded race, it has proven to be a great mid-season championship, with the likes of Viking Flagship, whilst his half-brother Flagship Uberalles won it three times 1999-2001 and was ridden by three different jockeys. In more recent times Sprinter Sacre and Altior have both won it for Nicky Henderson.
Without a doubt the best running was 2004, which has gone down in history as one of the best jump races ever run, for it saw Azertiyoup, Well Chief and Moscow Flyer going all-out over Sandown’s two miles and it was only half-way up the Sandown hill that Moscow Flyer was able to assert his authority.
Even a dual Cheltenham Gold Cup winner was able to get on the race’s roll of honour, with Kauto Star winning twice in 2005 and 2006, which were two of trainer Paul Nicholls six consecutive wins in the race, the others being Twist Magic and Master Minded. The latter was said by Ian Watkinson to be the winner, he would have loved to have ridden most.
Apart from Sprinter Sacre and Altior the best recent winner has been Un de Sceaux, who won in 2016 and at one stage last year looked like upsetting Altior, as the race was run in a torrential downpour and in conditions that suited Willie Mullins’s mud-lark, however Altior was able to show his mettle and determination and win through in the end.
Who will add their name to that illustrious roll of honour this year, who knows, but what is for sure the race will not disappoint for excitement and thrills.
Blog by guest blogger Grenville Davies.
If you enjoyed this blog and would like to learn more about the fascinating history of horseracing, why not visit Palace House, Newmarket. Tickets here