Racing: Real speed can triumph in a pulsating Tingle

SMALL CAN be beautiful and threatens to be positively stunning at Sandown today. Although one of racing's prevailing laments in recent weeks has been lack of runners and only six horses contest the afternoon's Grade One feature, the Tingle Creek Chase, quality, not quantity, is the point here. The field is just about perfectly formed and its composition - front-runners versus late pouncers - should ensure a spectacle to savour round the sport's most exciting two miles.

One of the blazers is Get Real (2.30), whose party quirk is that he can only gallop and jump to proper effect when he is going right-handed and for which reason he will never tackle the best round Cheltenham or Aintree. Last season it took Call Equiname, subsequently crowned two-mile champion, to lower his colours, and that only narrowly, in the Victor Chandler Chase.

A stress fracture ended his campaign early but he showed he is as good as ever with two efficient wins at Ascot in the past five weeks and should not be opposed in this tilt against the big boys, though very few actually come bigger than this giant of a horse.

The wholly admirable Edredon Bleu is the other in the field who likes to run unopposed and this pair should dominate.The French-bred seven-year- old made Call Equiname go to his limit in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham in March and gave Or Royal weight and a beating at Huntingdon two weeks ago. But Get Real's electrifying jumping can prove decisive.

The remaining four runners are all Grade One winners. Direct Route, who beat Edredon Bleu here 12 months ago fair and square, is ideally suited by sitting behind a lightning pace. He was only half a length behind last year's novice champion, the Arkle Chase winner Flagship Uberalles, when giving him 10lb at Exeter last month - level weights today - but sometimes falters in a finish and his stable is right out of form. Or Royal is sweeter for a change of stables but has not won over fences in 16 outings since he took the 1997 Arkle, and Celibate has been beaten thrice by Get Real.

Thirty-five minutes before the Tingle Creek the minimum- trip juniors provide the warm-up act in the Henry VIII Novices' Chase. Fadalko (1.55), understudy to Flagship Uberalles in Paul Nicholls's stable, jumped like an old hand when he trounced Toto Toscato at Cheltenham three weeks ago and can land his hat-trick at the expense of another high-class hurdling recruit, Decoupage.

Trying to second-guess Martin Pipe is the road to padded walls and one of those snug jackets with sleeves that tie behind. The master trainer has left two of his five entries in the big betting heat of the day, the William Hill Handicap Hurdle, top-weight Rodock and Copeland, near the base of the handicap.

In view of the fact that this is a race he habitually targets, and indeed has won five times - with Corporal Clinger, Liadett, Balasani, Valfinet and subsequent champion Make A Stand - the only question that seemingly remains to be answered is which one.

Tony McCoy sticks with Rodock, on whom he starved himself to win under 10st at Cheltenham and for whom championship aspirations have been mentioned, but punters have latched on to Copeland, the mount of David Casey. Pipe himself could, or would, not give any clues yesterday. "I understand Copeland has been heavily backed but by who I don't know as they are only guessing," he said, "It would be nice to think they could finish first and second." An each-way investment on the Irish challenger Native Dara (3.05), who will be sharper for a fifth to his stablemate Miss Emer at Down Royal a month ago, might prove less problematical.

Earlier another raider, the Tony Martin-trained MAGUA (nap 1.25) can atone for his fall when sharing the lead at the penultimate hurdle in a hot novice race at Cheltenham.

If speed is the essence of proceedings at Sandown, stamina will be the requirement at Chepstow in the Rehearsal Chase. Twelve months ago the three-miler went to the subsequent Gold Cup winner See More Business and today's non-vintage renewal can provide the horse who chased him home at Cheltenham, Go Ballistic (2.35), with the opportunity to launch in style the training career of Alan King, the new master of Jackdaws Castle.

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