Politologue won the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown for a second time - his first win was gained in 2017 - and, in doing so, winning his fourth Grade 1 prize over fences. The nine year old, who won the Queen Mother Champion Chase in March, won't go down as one the great two mile chasers but he has an impressive CV nevertheless. Best fresh, the grey has been brilliantly handled by Paul Nicholls and everyone at Ditcheat having burst a blood vessel in the 2019 renewal at the Esher track. A winner of 12 of his 27 races, he has earned £967,187 in prize-money which is a tremendous achievement. Making all under Harry Skelton, he jumped soundly throughout and never really looked in any trouble even though stablemate Greaneteen and Rouge Vif were very much in contention approaching the second last. A seven lengths winner, he may contest the Clarence House Chase at Ascot next month before returning to Prestbury Park in March to defend his crown.
The race was, of course, robbed of a lot of interest with ante-post favourite Altior being withdrawn on Friday evening. There has been mixed opinion regarding Nicky Henderson's decision, although a lot of the press appear to think the ten year old should have been allowed to take his chance. From a personal point of view, I can fully understand why Henderson decided against it. This time last year, the four times Festival winner was still recovering from his gruelling reappearance against Cyrname at Ascot and he reportedly didn't come right until February when back in action at Newbury in the Game Spirit Chase. His trainer and everyone at Seven Barrows were able to see how much the race took out of him - the general public weren't privy to that. Therefore it is understandable why Henderson didn't want to subject Altior to the same experience again. He is ten rising eleven and won't have too many more races before the curtain comes down on his career - why risk him on ground which looked desperate over the two days at Sandown when he could run later in the month at Kempton in the Desert Orchid Chase (27th December). Henderson had the horse's best interests at heart and that's the key point. Yes, it was disappointing for the 2000 paying public who were at Sandown and it is unfortunate for those who backed Altior ante-post, but those two things aren't Henderson's priority. He has a duty to the horse and his owners.
Talking of the top two milers, it was good to see Chacun Pour Soi back in action on Sunday for the first time in 309 days. Denied a run in the Queen Mother Champion Chase due to an abscess, it is well documented that the eight year old is fragile but there is no mistaking his talent. Having only his sixth run over fences, he won the Grade 2 Hilly Way Chase at Cork by nineteen lengths. Held up behind the strong pace set by Djingle and Cash Back, he was firmly in control when those two crashed out at the final fence - thankfully the pair were unscathed afterwards. It is hoped Willie Mullins' gelding will head to Leopardstown over Christmas for the Grade 1 two mile chase in which he finished runner-up behind A Plus Tard last year. Provided he remains in one piece, he looks set to make a huge impact at Cheltenham in March.
Declan Phelan's Irish Pointers section in One Jump Ahead has hit top form in recent days and the article supplied two more winners on Saturday, namely Magic Tricks (7/2) and Clondaw Secret (8/1). Both scored at Navan and I was particularly taken by the performance of the former. A half-brother to stablemate and Grade 1 winner Abacadabras, he was surprisingly beaten in a bumper on his Rules debut at Punchestown in late October. Sent hurdling, he won the two miles maiden on Saturday by eight and a half lengths. Having joined the leaders at the second last, he quickly pulled away to win with something to spare. The ill-fated Vautour won the same event in 2013 and it would be no surprise to see this four year old contest Graded company sooner rather than later. He is a horse with a big future.
I was working for Racing TV at Aintree on Saturday and it was another enjoyable afternoon, although the Grade 2 Many Clouds Chase didn't go to script with Lake View Lad beating three Grade 1 winners. There is no doubt the fact the three fences in the home straight weren't jumped made a difference to the race but it was still disappointing that Santini couldn't get passed Nick Alexander's winner. The performance of the day was provided by eleven year old Vieux Lion Rouge though when winning the Becher Chase for a second time. Remarkably, it was his fifth run in the race (won it in 2016) and his ninth race over the National fences. It was a fantatsic training performance by David Pipe and everyone at Pond House Stables. He became the first horse from his age group to win the race since Feels Like Gold in 1999.
Feels Like Gold was trained by Nicky Richards and I spoke to the Cumbrian trainer on Saturday and got the low down on some of his team, including an exciting unraced bumper horse who is featured in OJA. Nicky also said that Glinger Flame failed to handle the attritional conditions in the two and a half miles handicap hurdle, which was won in determined fashion by Kateson. I also spoke to a few others trainers, news of which will be included in the Christmas Special, which will be published later this month.
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