Betfair Tingle Creek Chase: Greaneteen ready to rumble

Paul Nicholls fired a warning shot at his Betfair rivals Tingle Creek today and insisted last year’s hero Greaneteen is the one to beat as the trainer bids for a record 13th win in the contest of first class.

The eight-year-old enjoyed a season to remember last term, winning Grade I prizes twice at Sandown Park, including a 12-length demolition of Sceau Royal in the Celebration Chase in April.

And while there looks to be a smart field that will stand 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 which was undoubtedly the best career. effort to win the Grade Two Haldon Gold Cup on his return to Exeter earlier this month.

Speaking on Tuesday morning, he said: “He has come out of Exeter well and we are very happy for him. He will have school tomorrow morning and work Thursday morning so we are happy.

“He was a lot better at Exeter than last year when he was beaten, although he wasn’t as fit last year as he had a few problems. All his early season work has been completely different to what he was a year ago, he is a much improved horse and ran like him.

“To get a 168 and beat decent horses the way he did just confirmed that we’re looking at a much better horse this year. He’s only eight years old and I really think he’ll get better in the spring. His best run was in the Celebration Chase at Sandown in April, but he’s certainly taken a step forward this year, both in home work and physique.

“I think Shishkin has to beat us at this point. You’d have to say this is a home game for us in many ways as he loves Sandown. Poor Shishkin had a few problems in the spring so he needs to get back to form. He beat us at Kempton on very soft ground (in the Grade Two Desert Orchid Chase) and I wish I hadn’t run him that day as he had a tough race in that.

“I’d put a line through that race because it wasn’t Greaneteen at his best, but we’re very happy and I think at the moment, with where we’re at, that he’s the one to beat.

“There are some smart horses out 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 – all of which have come in Grade One company – and when asked why his staff seem to enjoy it there, Nicholls explained that the track is a perfect fit.

He continued: “He seems to be enjoying himself at Sandown. He can win there at any time of the year and had exactly the same preparation race as last year in the Haldon Gold Cup.

“It’s just the perfect piece for him. He’s a good jumper and you can either take the lead with him or go forward and he stays strong on that hill. To win at Sandown you need a good, strong two miler and Greaneteen fits the bill perfectly.

“We really liked him for that last year. He went to Exeter with a few little problems and needed a run, but he ran well that day and I had a month to get him right. Nobody else liked it, but I did and he won the race handsomely. He certainly had a much easier route in the race this year. I set him up for Exeter and it was a good weighty win and he’s in great form.”

Nicholls also explained why the Betfair Tingle Creek is a race he targets in the yard every December, adding: “It’s a great race to win and we’ve had some great horses win it over the years .

“It seems to be a race we’ve done well in and it’s something we feel we’re aiming for with the right horses. We think we’ve done that again this year and Sandown is a fantastic jumping track.

“Horses have to jump and stay there over two miles, so you need the right horse and have it right on the day. Our touch wood seems to be going really well this year and I just hope Greaneteen can take that further and make it 13 winners for us.”

In the meantime, Monmiral he has the option of renewing his acquaintance with Douvan in pursuit of Grade One close brothers Henry VIII, although Nicholls revealed he is likely to step up his lead on the trip in a fortnight’s time.

He explained: “We’ll see and at the moment I’m really open-minded. Not sure I want to take Jonbon when there is good ground around Sandown. He was so good at Warwick and if the ground had been tested I think it would have been a different story and I might not have been too worried about taking him.

“I think two miles on easy ground would not be ideal for Monmiral, so I think it’s quite possible to wait a couple of weeks for the Noel Novices’ Chase at Ascot over two and a half miles. We’ll make a plan Thursday morning when we see what happens.”

Latest Betfair odds for Betfair Tingle Creek:

6-5 Shishkin, 6-5 Greaneteen; 9-2 Gentleman De Mee; 5-1 Edwardstone; 10-1 Captain Guinness; 20-1 Dunvegan; 25-1 Sivola tightrope walkers.

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