Sandown’s biggest jumps fixture, the Tingle Creek Festival, is held annually during the first weekend in December.
Starting on the Friday, which holds the Grade 2 Winter Novices’ Hurdle, the meeting’s key races are run on the Saturday where there is a seven race card, including the headlining Tingle Creek Chase.
The Tingle Creek, first run in 1979, brings together some of the best two-mile chasers in training. The previous winners lists boast some greats of the sport in Desert Orchid, Moscow Flyer, Kauto Star and Altior to name just four.
The other chases on the Saturday are the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase over the same trip as the Tingle Creek, and the London Chase over three and a half miles. The are four hurdles contests that day, the most valuable of which being the Listed December Handicap Hurdle.
Tingle Creek Day Races
|12:05||Betfair Juvenile Hurdle||Class 2||2m|
|12:40||My Oddsboost On Betfair ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle||Class 3||2m|
|1:15||Betfair Novices’ Handicap Hurdle||Class 4||2m|
|1:50||Planteur At Chapel Stud Henry VIII Novices’ Chase||Grade 1||1m7½f|
|2:25||Betfair Tingle Creek Chase||Grade 1||1m7½f|
|3:00||Betfair Exchange London National Handicap Chase||Class 2||3m5f|
|3:35||Betfair Exchange December Handicap Hurdle||Class 1||2m|
A Complete History of the Tingle Creek Chase
For decades, the Tingle Creek Chase has welcomed some of the leading two-mile chasers in the business. Considered one of the ultimate tests of speed and jumping, it often takes a fine horse to triumph in this contest. It is therefore little wonder why names such as Desert Orchid, Moscow Flyer, Kauto Star and Sprinter Sacre feature on the honours list.
The title of the race itself honours a horse named Tingle Creek who was something of a Sandown Park specialist. A course which very much played to his strengths, he visited Surrey regularly and so often produced the goods.
One event in particular allowed him to shine brightest, the Sandown Handicap Pattern Chase. The famous white-faced, spring-heeled flyer appeared in this contest in six successive years, winning three times and finishing runner-up the other three. Incredibly, each time he was victorious he broke a track record in the process.
This two-day festival takes place in early December each year and is very much one of the winter highlights. Let’s see how it all began …
1969 – Tingle Creek foundations
Although the Tingle Creek Chase officially begin in 1979, it has roots dating back a decade earlier. In 1969, Sandown introduced the Benson & Hedges Gold Cup, which later became the Mecca Bookmakers’ Handicap Chase in 1977. It was this race that was turned into the Tingle Creek chase once the sponsorship deal with Mecca Bookmakers (who later merged with William Hill) expired.
1979 – Tingle Creek Chase unveiled
Tingle Creek’s last ever appearance, fittingly, came at Sandown in November 1978. Just over a year later, he had a race named in his honour, the Tingle Creek Chase. Much like today’s event, it initially took place over a distance of around two miles. It did however, also run as a handicap race rather than a level weights contest. A horse by the name of Artifice won the inaugural edition of the steeplechase.
1982 – News King Double
We did not have to wait long for the first repeat winner as News King defended his Tingle Creek crown in 1982. Fred Winter was his trainer with seven-time Champion Jockey John Francome in the saddle for both wins.
1983 – Frost cancellation
For a British race scheduled in December, there is always a danger of the weather forcing a postponement or cancellation. This was the case in 1983 with organisers having to call off the race due to frosty conditions. Unable to find a suitable replacement venue, this is the only time the Tingle Creek Chase has failed to go ahead since its inception.
1987 – Desert Orchid engaged in thrilling battle
The 1987 running of the Tingle Creek Chase did wonders to increase its profile. Top weight and well-fancied favourite Desert Orchid approached the race on the back off two emphatic lower-class victories. Despite the growing hype surrounding him, David Elsworth’s horse was thwarted on the day by an excellent performance from Long Engagement.
The following year the much loved grey returned to Sandown to obliterate a small field in what ended up being his Gold Cup winning season. He did attempt the race on two future occasions but missed out to Long Engagement once again in 1989 and was easily beaten in the 1990 running.
1994 – Tingle Creek handed top classification
A reclassification saw the Tingle Creek Chase move from being a Grade 2 handicap to a Grade 1 even-weights contest. In doing so, the total prize money for the race doubled, going up from just over £25,000 to more than £50,000. The increase in money and class was enough to persuade David Nicholson to enter Viking Flagship in the contest. In a repeat of what happened in the Champion Chase earlier in the year, Flagship triumphed, with rival Travado forced to settle for second.
2000 – Cheltenham steps in
The 2000 running of the Tingle Creek Chase took place a week later than usual as Sandown Racecourse faced severe flooding. Far less impacted by the wet conditions, Cheltenham came to the rescue to host the Grade 1 event.
The change in venue did second favourite Tiutchev no favours as he hit the challenging open ditch very hard and never recovered. His costly mistake paved the way for an emphatic win for defending champ Flagship Uberalles who finished 11 lengths clear of his nearest challenger.
2001 – Historic hat-trick for Uberalles
In 2001, Flagship Uberalles completed one of the most unusual major race hat-tricks you are likely to see. This was the first, and remains the only time a horse has won this race three times but there is more to it than that. Firstly, the half-brother of Viking Flagship was the first horse to win the contest at two different racecourses (something later managed by Master Minded).
What is more unbelievable though is that he had a different trainer and jockey combination for each win. Initially victorious for Paul Nicholls, he then scored success for Noel Chance and then Philip Hobbs, with whom he eventually retired. When racing for Hobbs, Robert Widger was selected as jockey due to an injury sustained by first choice Richard Johnson. To this day Widger stands as the only amateur rider to have won this highly-regarded race.
A number of horses have won two Tingle Creeks, often back to back, but Flagship Uberalles remains the only ever three-time victor.
2004 – Age unable to ground Moscow Flyer
With a career record of 26 wins from 44 starts, there are few horses with a better record than Moscow Flyer. A truly formidable performer, he collected a number of major titles during an illustrious career. He did not win any races as an 11-year-old but during his 10-year-old season, he won five contests including the Tingle Creek. By doing so he became, and still is, the oldest horse to have won this event.
It was a particularly fine victory too given that Moscow Flyer had to see off the challenge of that year’s Champion Chase winner Azertyuiop. Given their well-established rivalry, this hotly anticipated renewal attracted a record-breaking crowd to the venue.
Over 16,000 people came to view the action at Sandown, an all-time course best for a National Hunt fixture. Those that came were not at all disappointed, with this renewal one of the Tingle Creek’s all-time greats. Slight favourite Azertyuiop huffed and puffed but could not match the fast and accurate jumping of the eventual winner.
2007 – Nicholls hits double digits
Paul Nicholls became the first trainer to hit 10 successes in this race. He was quite a way ahead of the competition too with no other trainer close to matching his superb record in this contest.
While the overall tally is impressive enough, it is worth nothing Nicholls strung together an unbelievable six-year winning streak starting in 2005. Very rarely indeed would you ever see one trainer enjoy such a sustained period of success in a top level contest and the world class handler did the business with three different horses in this period (Kauto Star, Twist Magic and Master Minded all claiming two wins).
To think that Nicholls could have an even better record in this race had he not shipped off Flagship Uberalles in the autumn of 2000. Having pulled up in his final two starts of the 1999/00 season, Nicholls assumed the horse was on a downward trajectory and made the mistake of letting him go. Given all his wins we think he won’t be having too many sleepless nights.
2010 – Cheltenham return for the Tingle Creek
Bad weather at Sandown a week earlier forced organisers to postpone the 2010 Tingle Creek Chase. Just like what happened a decade earlier, Cheltenham stepped in as temporary hosts a week later. Despite never racing on Cheltenham’s New Course before, strong favourite Master Minded had no issue whatsoever with the fresh test. He jumped well throughout with Noel Fehily in the saddle and powered home for a very comfortable victory.
2012 – Kinkeel the greatest ever loser?
The history books tend to focus on winners rather than losers but let us mention Kinkeel, a horse who was hopelessly out of his depth in this contest. Having lost his previous two races by a combined 155 lengths, even his 200/1 price offered no appeal whatsoever. The involvement of the 13-year-old was primarily due to a world record breaking attempt. The ultimate goal was to break the record of 119 chase starts, with the Tingle Creek Chase his 107th effort.
There were to be no shocks at Sandown with Kinkeel finishing so far behind you needed a pair of binoculars to spot him. Unfortunately, he ended up falling six races short of the record too with an overall chase record of five wins from 113 starts.