The Betfair Tingle Creek Chase is always one of the highlights of the National Hunt season and its a roll of honour reads like a Who’s Who of top two-milers.
Desert Orchid, Waterloo Boy, Viking Flagship, Direct Route, Flagship Uberalles, Moscow Flyer, Kauto Star, Master Minded, Sprinter Scare, Un De Sceaux and Altior have been among the victors since the race was first run in 1979.
Two previous winners are set to line up in Saturday's renewal. The going at the Esher track is currently good to soft, soft in places with some rain expected on Friday.
Here's a guide to the eight declared runners.
1. DEFI DU SEUIL
Official rating: 163. Sandown form: 1. Sponsors bet: 13-8
Watch how Defi Du Seuil won at Sandown in February
The outstanding juvenile hurdler of his generation developed into one of last season’s top novice chasers, with his efforts including two defeats of Lostintranslation.
He showed his effectiveness at the track when landing the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase in smooth style February (form has worked out a treat) and coped admirably with drop to 2m when beating Politologue in the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham last month.
Is 3lb worse off but has probably not his ceiling and prospect of a truer-run race should also play more to his strengths.
Philip Hobbs tells Rishi Persad about his star's comeback win
Official rating: 158. Sandown form: 221. Sponsors bet: 16-1
Smart performer who jumped with typical accuracy when winning a handicap over course and distance off a mark of 149 in February.
Ran as well as he has ever done last time, when chasing home Janika in the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter, off a mark of 157, but may now be hard to place; being weighted up to his best in handicaps and looking vulnerable at this level.
Official rating: 166. Sandown form: --. Sponsors bet: 8-1
The Verdict: Janika beat Dolos at Exeter
Signed off in France with three successive wins over fences and progressed well in top handicaps last year, without getting his head in front.
Put that right on his return when a slick winner of the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter (gave 5lb and a beating to Dolos) but his connections suggested afterwards his next run would be the Peterborough Chase, at Huntingdon on Sunday.
Would require a bit more here, but an intriguing runner provided he is not switched to Huntingdon.
Official rating: 154. Sandown form: 2. Sponsors bet: 33-1
Henry De Bromhead told us more about Ornua after his Aintree victory
The zestful front-runner was runner-up to Dynamite Dollars in the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase on this card last year and went one beter in Grade One company at Aintree, but he fell in the Arkle and also failed to complete at Punchestown.
Made a satisfactory return at Naas, although he was no match for Cilaos Emery, albeit he was trying to give that potential top-notcher 11lb.
The probable scenario is that he will help tee-up the race for superior rivals.
Official rating: 166. Sandown form: 1. Sponsors bet: 11-2
Our experts look back at the Shloer Chase, in which Defi Du Seuil and Politolgue fought out the finish
The battle-hardened grey won this prize in 2017 and added another Grade One win to his CV at Aintree later in the campaign.
He has continued to hold his own in the best company and he beat all bar Altior in the Champion Chase at Cheltenham in March.
Had a breathing op over the summer and made a valiant attempt to concede 3lb to Defi Du Seuil at Cheltenham last month, when both were making their seasonal reappearances.
Should make a bold bid to give Paul Nicholls an eleventh win in this race.
6. SCEAU ROYAL
Official rating: 164. Sandown form: 142. Sponsors bet: 6-1
Sceau Royal chased home Altior at Sandown when last seen in action
The highlight of his novice campaign the season before last was his impressive win in the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase on this card two years ago and he clearly was not at his best, on deep ground, when well held in this race 12 months ago.
Ended last season with solid spins behind Altior at Cheltenham and here.
Missed the Shloer Chase last month on account of the testing ground but he goes well fresh and should have this run to suit. If the rain stays away it will be to his benefit of this strong traveller, who will no doubt again be played late.
7. UN DE SCEAUX
Official rating: 171. Sandown form: 212. Sponsors bet: 100-30
Watch what our experts made of last year's Tingle Creek
The ten-time Grade One winner needs no introduction and, rising 12, will raise the roof if keeping younger rivals at bay.
Scooped this prize first time out in 2016 and last year made Altior dig deep, again when making his return, before having to settle for silver.
He beat Min at the highest level when last seen, at Punchestown in the spring, but that race had an end-of-season feel to it.
Officially, he's the best horse in the field but he would be the oldest winner of a race first run 40 years ago and his biggest opponent could be the one not listed in the racecard: Father Time.
Official rating: 166. Sandown form: --. Sponsors bet: 7-1
Looked bound for the top when beating Politologue at Haydock about three years ago and 12 months later duly won at Grade One level at Ascot.
However, he has had issues since then and heavy defeats at Ascot and Aintree in the second half of last season leave him with questions to answer on his comeback.
Perhaps another break and reverting to two miles will help, but there will be no hiding places here.
Six of the entries are rated 163 or higher, so no shortage of quality. Defi Du Seuil’s novice form, including at this track, has a glow and there was plenty to like about the way he mastered Politologue in the Shloer Chase.
Tipping the ante-post favourite is hardly original, but he does look the most likely winner.
Un De Sceaux seeks to become the oldest winner (Moscow Flyer was 10 when scoring in 2004 – all other victors have been 9 or younger) and could be vulnerable. Politologue and Sceau Royal may emerge as the biggest threats.
1. DEFI DU SEUIL. 2. POLITOLOGUE. 3. SCEAU ROYAL
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