Feel sweet Tingle of success on Gauvain
SIZING EUROPE will this afternoon bid to become the first Irish-trained winner of the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown since Moscow Flyer completed thrilling back-to-back victories under Barry Geraghty in 2004.
Amazingly, Paul Nicholls has won each of the subsequent six renewals of the two-mile Grade One. In 2002, Nicholls also scored with Cenkos, a victory that fortified the ever-dominant handler's fledgling association with one Ruby Walsh.
Sizing Europe heads for the Esher track on the back of another indifferent foray over three miles. A gallant runner-up to Quito De La Roque at Down Royal, the reigning champion chaser ultimately fared little better over the trip than he did 12 months ago.
Henry de Bromhead's dual Cheltenham Festival winner has been an easy-to-back favourite all week, and it may be significant that he took a run to readjust when switched back down in trip last term. There could be value to be had elsewhere.
Nicholls' Kauto Stone is the obvious alternative, but his price has contracted since the withdrawal of Tataniano yesterday, and this is a major step up. Dropping back in trip, Wishfull Thinking is interesting, though he is not expected to be quite good enough.
Gauvain may be the one at a generous 10/1. A comprehensive 16-length winner from Nicholls' Woolcombe Folly on his reappearance at Cheltenham in November, the nine-year-old has form to suggest that he could play a big part here.
When Tataniano accounted for Woolcombe Folly at Chepstow previously, he did so by only half the margin that Gauvain did, and Nick Williams' charge recorded an equally classy triumph at Cheltenham a year ago. On that occasion, Gauvain turned in a polished display to deny both Forpadydeplasterer and Tataniano with some ease.
Granted, the selection's form then disintegrated, but his stunning performance under the superb Noel Fehily last month suggested that he is now back to his best. Crucially, Gauvain is versatile in terms of ground and tactics, and it is of note that he produced one of his best displays as a novice to win a Grade Two over course and distance.
Fehily might also take the opening novice hurdle on Knight Pass for Warren Greatrex. Again, Nicholls and Walsh provide the danger here in Black Thunder. That one cantered up at Newton Abbot in May, but Knight Pass' form should hold up better.
A dual bumper winner last term, the Accordion gelding failed to raise a gallop in the championship event at Cheltenham in March. On his return at Exeter last month, he hurdled fluently en route to a ready victory and could be a serious prospect.
In the Pertemps Handicap that follows, Drumbaloo can defy an eight-pound hike for winning on his debut for Evan Williams at Chepstow.
At Aintree, Rare Bob, Another Palm and Merchent Paddy represent the Irish hopes in a 15-strong Becher Chase. Of that trio, Rare Bob may have the best chance as he has plenty of experience and will relish the three-and-a-quarter-mile trip.
He is an each-way price at double-figure odds, and it is mildly surprising that he trails Another Palm in the betting, given that the Cork Grand National runner-up has run just six times over fences. That said, Swing Bill is strongly fancied to collect.
David Pipe's 10-year-old has an invaluable previous run over the National fences, having been a fine fifth behind Always Waning -- which re-opposes here -- Mon Parrain and Scotsirish in the Topham in April. He has held his form well this term, taking an amateur rider's race at Cheltenham, before finishing third at Ascot.
With the trip and slow ground ideal, Swing Bill should prove a formidable opponent under Timmy Murphy, one of the most skilled riders in the business around Aintree.
Best Bet: Swing Bill