Sandown's steep climb to the winning post presents a notable dilemma to Tony McCoy who was yesterday handed the assignment of riding the exuberant front-running Ashley Brook in Saturday's race.
Somehow the champion jockey must conserve the energy of his bold-jumping mount in the knowledge that Ashley Brook has won six times - but never on a track with an uphill finish.
McCoy replaces Ashley Brook's regular pilot Paddy Brennan who broke his leg in a fall at Uttoxeter last week.
Kevin Bishop, who trains the seven-year-old, said: "I don't think it will be necessary for Tony to sit on him before Saturday, the horse is relatively straightforward and obviously he'll have a chat with Paddy beforehand."
Ashley Brook almost took the Arkle Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival last March where it appeared that only a last-fence blunder stopped Brennan's mount from claiming a famous victory. Cheltenham's ascent to the winning line is steeper than Sandown's - yet the Esher climb still sets a daunting task for a horse who uses so much of his zest in the early stages.
Yesterday's official advance going on Sandown's chase course was described as "good to soft, good in places". But rain is forecast.
McCoy was giving nothing away to his rivals when saying yesterday: "I'm looking forward to riding Ashley Brook because he was a very good novice and I'm sure he's going to have a very good chance in the Tingle Creek."
The champion nominated Irish challenger Rathgar Beau as "the one to beat". He continued: "The fact Moscow Flyer, Azertyuiop and Well Chief are all absent leaves the door open and there are plenty of horses ready to take their chance. Rathgar Beau is coming over from Ireland and his form is pretty solid with Moscow Flyer, having beaten him at Punchestown last April, and then he was second to War Of Attrition."
Ashley Brook finished third behind Monkerhostin and Kauto Star in the Haldon Gold Cup on his reappearance at Exeter at the beginning of November.
"Monkerhostin is a pretty solid horse, but I think he's got a bit to find to be a top bracket champion chaser," McCoy said. "That's no disrespect to him, his form is very solid, he was second in the Paddy Power and the Peterborough.
"Kauto Star is obviously a very good horse. Ruby [Walsh] thinks he's very good and Paul [Nicholls] thinks he's very good, but he's still got it all to prove yet, he's by no means a champion yet."
Kauto Star was cut yesterday to 13-8 from 7-4 with the race sponsors, William Hill, while Rathgar Beau was trimmed to 9-2 from 11-2.
However, the latter's trainer, Eamonn Sheehy, will wait until today before declaring his nine-year-old a definite runner for the two-mile contest. Sheehy said: "He was due to work this morning, but didn't and we will work him tomorrow after which he will be scoped and we will then make a definite decision about running."
Mark Rimell has booked Graham Lee for his Queen Mother Champion Chase fourth Oneway, who will be making his seasonal.
"I would have liked to have got a run into him, but having said that he is a relatively clean-winded horse and we have done an awful lot of work with him," Rimell said. "On his Queen Mother form he looks like he has got plenty to find, but I have always thought he was a late-maturing horse and he might just find it on Saturday."
All In The Stars and Cornish Rebel - third and fifth in last weekend's Hennessy Gold Cup - have been installed as the 8-1 joint-favourites by Coral for the Welsh National at Chepstow on 27 December.
Tingle Creek Trophy Chase (Sandown, Saturday) William Hill ante-post odds: 13-8 Kauto Star, 7-2 Ashley Brook, 9-2 Rathgar Beau, 5-1 Monkerhostin, 7-1 Oneway, 10-1 Central House, 12-1 Sporazene, 25-1 Hand Inn Hand, 33-1 Armaturk, Locksmith, 66-1 Kadarann, 200-1 Dangerousdanmagru. Tote ante-post odds: 2-1 Kauto Star, 7-2 Ashley Brook, 4-1 Rathgar Beau, 13-2 Monkerhostin, Oneway, 10-1 Sporazene, 12-1 Central House, 25-1 Hand Inn Hand, Locksmith, 33-1 Armaturk, 50-1 Kadarann, 200-1 Dangerousdanmagru.
Welsh National (Chepstow, 27 Dec-ember) Coral ante-post odds: 8-1 All In The Stars, Cornish Rebel, 9-1 Comply Or Die, 10-1 Lord Transcend, One Knight, 11-1 Control Man, 12-1 Juveigneur, McKelvey, Strong Resolve, 16-1 Double Honour, Fork Lightning, Iris's Gift, It Takes Time, Jack High, Joacci, Joss Naylor, Lord Atterbury, Native Emperor, Sleeping Night, The Bajan Bandit, 20-1 others.
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