By Nick Seddon. Photograph by Ian Yates www.eyewhy.co.uk
Paul Nicholls fired a warning shot to his Sandown Tingle Creek rivals and insisted last year’s hero Greaneteen is the one to beat.
The trainer is bidding to secure a record-extending 13th victory in the Grade One contest this Saturday (3rd December 2022).
The eight year old Greaneteen enjoyed a season to remember last term, twice winning Grade One prizes at Sandown Park including a 12-length demolition job of Sceau Royal in the Celebration Chase in April.
And while there looks set to be a smart field standing in his way this Saturday, including last year’s Arkle Trophy hero as well as the returning Nicky Henderson-trained Shishkin, Nicholls believes Greaneteen sets the standard on the back of what was arguably a career best effort to win the Grade Two Haldon Gold Cup on return at Exeter earlier this month.
Nicholls said: “He’s come out of Exeter well and we’re really happy with him. He’s going to have a school tomorrow morning and work on Thursday morning so we’re pleased.
“He was much better at Exeter than he was last year when he was beaten, though he wasn’t as ready last year as he had a few problems. His whole work from the start of the season has been completely different from what it was a year ago, he’s a much more improved horse and he ran like it.
“To win off a mark of 168 and beat decent horses in the manner he did just confirmed that we’re looking at a much better horse this year. He’s only eight and I actually think he got better in the spring. His best run was in the Celebration Chase at Sandown in April but he’s definitely taken a step forward this year, both in his work at home and physically.
“I think Shishkin has got to beat us at the moment. You’d have to say that this is a home game for us in a lot of ways as he loves Sandown. Poor Shishkin had a few issues in the spring so he’s got to bounce back to form. He beat us at Kempton in very soft ground (in the Grade Two Desert Orchid Chase) and I wish I’d not run him that day as he’d had a hard race in this.
“I’d put a line through that run as it wasn’t Greaneteen at his best but we’re very happy and I just think at the moment, with where we are, that he’s the one to beat.
“There are some smart horses in there. Edwardstone was very progressive last year and Shishkin on his day is very good, so it will be an interesting race. My horses love good ground and it’s going to be a dry week, so that’s a plus for him.”
Greaneteen has won each of his last three starts at Sandown Park – with all of those coming in Grade One company – and when asked to pinpoint why his charge seems to enjoy it there, Nicholls explained that the track is a perfect fit.
He continued: “He just seems to like it at Sandown. He can win there at any time of the year and he’s had the exact same prep run coming into this as last year in the Haldon Gold Cup.
“It’s just the perfect track for him. He’s a good jumper and you can either take a lead with him or go forward and he stays on strongly up that hill. To win at Sandown you need a good and strong staying two miler and Greaneteen fits the bill perfectly.
“We really fancied him for this last year. He went to Exeter having a few little issues and needed the run, but he ran well that day and I had a month to really tune him up. Nobody else fancied him but I did and he won the race nicely. He’s definitely had a much easier route into the race this year. We had him ready for Exeter and it was a good win giving away weight and he’s in great shape.”
Nicholls also explained why the Betfair Tingle Creek is a race his yard targets each December, adding: “It’s a great race to win and we’ve had some lovely horses win it over the years.
“It seems to be a race we’ve done well in and it’s something we feel we target with the right horses. We think we’ve done that again this year and Sandown is a fantastic jumping track.
“Horses have got to jump and stay over two miles there so you need the right horse and having him right on the day. Touch wood ours seem to be going really well this year and I just hope Greaneteen can carry that forward and make it 13 winners for us.”
Meanwhile, Monmiral has the option of renewing acquaintances with Douvan in the Grade One Close Brothers Henry VIII Novices’ Chase, though Nicholls revealed that he was likely to step his charge up in trip in a fortnight’s time.
He explained: “We’ll just see and at the moment, I’m open-minded really. I’m not sure I want to take Jonbon on when it’s good ground around Sandown. He was so good at Warwick and if the ground had been testing I think it would have been a different story and I might not have been too worried about taking him on.
“I think two miles on easy ground would not be ideal for Monmiral, so I think it’s quite possible we’ll wait a couple of weeks for the Noel Novices’ Chase at Ascot over two and a half miles. We’ll make a plan on Thursday morning when we see what’s happening.”
Karen can usually be found glued to her computer or at the stables. Having edited several national magazines she co-founded Eclipse Magazine in 2008 after realising that many of her friends were nervous about going racing due to lack of information – what to wear, how to bet etc.
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