Sanctuaire ready for big clash
Paul Nicholls is relishing running Sanctuaire in the £120,000 Sportingbet Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown Park on Saturday week.
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The gelding was the highest-rated novice chaser the champion trainer has ever trained and unbeaten in all his three starts over fences, including a magnificent performance in the bet365.com Celebration Chase at Sandown Park in April 2012.
However he faces a stern test on his reappearance, with another unbeaten second-season chaser Sprinter Sacre also heading to Sandown.
"Sprinter Sacre is an extremely talented horse but so is Sanctuaire. They are only 3Ib apart so I have no idea how it will pan out but I know that it is going to be an interesting race," said Nicholls.
"When he won at Sandown Park in April, I knew he'd run well before the race, but it really was awesome the way he won. Sandown is the perfect course for front running two mile chasers and so it was obvious for us to come back with him for the Sportingbet Tingle Creek Chase.
"We've had a little trouble with him in the past at the start of races, but since he has been going over fences he has been grand at the start so I am not too worried about him in that respect. The trick with him is to run him when he is very fit and very fresh and he will certainly be both those next Saturday."
The Sportingbet Tingle Creek Chase attracts the best two mile steeple chasers in the country and often acts as a springboard for the Sportingbet Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
This year's fixture has been enhanced with two additional races, the Anne Boleyn Mares Handicap Hurdle and the Coldunell Amateur Jockeys Association Amateur Riders Handicap Steeple Chase (for the John Dunsdon Memorial Cup) and an overall increase in prize money over the two days.
London Regional Director for Jockey Club Racecourses, Rupert Trevelyan said: "I am hugely excited about this year's Tingle Creek Christmas Festival. It is not only thrilling to have two of Britain's leading chasers going head to head in the Sportingbet Tingle Creek Chase but we have a feast of entertainment going on over the two days which cater for the whole family."
Sandown Park racegoers will be in for a treat with one of horseracing's all time legends, Kauto Star, making a special appearance at the track.
The recently-retired Cheltenham Gold Cup-winning superstar, who also won two Tingle Creeks, will lead the runners of the Sportingbet Tingle Creek Chase in a parade in front of the stands just before the start of the feature race.
While all the action is happening on the racecourse, Sandown Park is putting on pantomimes in the Esher Hall, free of charge, and there will be a chance to meet one of the country's most prolific children's authors, Ian Whybrow, who is responsible for the hugely popular 'Harry and his Bucket Full of Dinosaurs' stories.
The Esher Hall also becomes the perfect 'one stop' Christmas shop with the Hi Life Christmas Show -the perfect opportunity to buy presents, decorations and treats for the family. As always at Sandown Park, accompanied children under 18 go free and there is a complimentary crèche facility.