Sandown entry sends tingle down the spine

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The Independent Online

The coming Saturday offers a simple choice for racing fans in London: whether to be suffocated in the crush of shoppers on Oxford Street or the King's Road, or suffocated in the crush of punters in the Tatts bar at Sandown Park. After yesterday's five-day declarations for the Tingle Creek meeting, a trip to Esher looks to be the warm favourite.

The coming Saturday offers a simple choice for racing fans in London: whether to be suffocated in the crush of shoppers on Oxford Street or the King's Road, or suffocated in the crush of punters in the Tatts bar at Sandown Park. After yesterday's five-day declarations for the Tingle Creek meeting, a trip to Esher looks to be the warm favourite.

Whitbread day may attract a bigger crowd, and Eclipse afternoon in the summer a better class of horse, but for many Sandown aficionados , this weekend's card is as good as it gets.

The Tingle Creek Chase is always a contest of the highest quality, while the William Hill Handicap Hurdle is not merely a wildly competitive contest, but in some years also a pointer to the Champion Hurdle itself.

With a fine novice chase among the four races on the undercard, there will be nothing better this side of Christmas.

There were just six entries for the two-mile Tingle Creek yesterday, yet no-one will complain on the grounds of quality. Direct Route, last year's winner, is among them, and so too Edredon Bleu, who was second 12 months ago, and the five-year-old Flagship Uberalles, the finest two-mile novice of last season.

Get Real, meanwhile, seems likely to be given his chance by trainer Nicky Henderson to prove that the rapid improvement the eight-year-old showed at Ascot on his last two starts could yet carry him to the pinnacle.

Sadly for punters, though, only the Tote and the Irish firm, Cashmans, have troubled to price up the race. They both make Direct Route a 2-1 chance, while Edredon Bleu is best with the Tote at 9-4, and Flagship Uberalles top-priced with the Irish at 11-4. Get Real is 11-2 (Tote), Or Royal best at 16-1 with the same firm, and Celibate the outsider on 22-1.

Or Royal lost his way completely last season, proving ever more reluctant to give of his best, and has since been sold by owner David Johnson and moved from Martin Pipe to Mary Reveley. He ran his best race for a long time when running on in game fashion to finish second to Edredon Bleu, who was giving him 10lb, in the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon 10 days ago.

''Or Royal is only a possible at the moment,'' Reveley said yesterday. ''We want to see what the weights are like for the Tripleprint Chase at Cheltenham. I think they will be out on Thursday and we will make a decision then.''

Celibate too is an uncertain runner, but the ''big four'' are all likely to start. Howard Johnson yesterday reported Direct Route to be ''in very good fettle'', while Paul Nicholls said that Flagship Uberalles is an intended runner, ''although he does not want it desperately soft. The only time he got beat over fences was on heavy ground at Chepstow, but it never gets like Chepstow at Sandown.''

The remaining British bookies are likely to price up the Tingle Creek this morning, having had a chance to see what their rivals make of it. It is hard to see Flagship Uberalles starting any longer than 11-4 on Saturday, and if any of the British firms concur with Cashmans about his chance, that price is worth taking.

There will be prices today too on the William Hill Handicap Hurdle, for which there were 24 entries yesterday, including five from Martin Pipe, who has made this race his own over the last decade.

The other main event of the weekend is the Rehearsal Chase at Chepstow, won 12 months ago by the subsequent Gold Cup winner, See More Business. Kendal Cavalier, last year's Welsh National winner, is one of 15 entries, along with Go Ballistic, the Gold Cup runner-up, and Escartefigue.

Kendal Cavalier, an early, pre-weights favourite for the Grand National, is now back with Toby Balding after spells with both Rod Millman and Nigel Hawke, and finished fourth to Hanakham at Cheltenham on his seasonal debut. ''He has come out of the race very well,'' Balding said, ''and the runner-up Callisoe Bay won well at Haydock on Saturday so the form looks all right. We wanted to get a race into him before the Welsh National and the only other alternative was at Cheltenham on December 10 and that was a bit close. The softer the ground the better for him and Barry Fenton will ride.''

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