Betfair Tingle Creek Chase | Grade 1 | 1m7½f | ITV4/RTV
Defi Du Seuil primed for more Grade 1 glory
Fast becoming one of the most popular and prolific performers in jump racing, Defi Du Seuil took his record to 12 wins from 18 starts – a magnificent 67 per cent strike-rate – when making a successful reappearance in Cheltenham’s Grade 2 Shloer Chase last month.
He reopposes runner-up Politologue on 3lb worse terms but is notoriously difficult to get fit and it is likely the six-year-old will have improved for the outing.
The five-time Grade 1 winner has proved himself versatile in trip. He has the speed for two miles, landed the 2m4f JLT Novices' Chase at Cheltenham in March and trainer Philip Hobbs believes he will stay three miles in due course.
Sure to be a warm favourite, Defi Du Seuil showed a liking for Sandown when beating Lostintranslation by three-quarters of a length in the Scilly Isles Novices' Chase in February, and it is hard to knock his form.
Hobbs said: "He's been in very good form since Cheltenham. Soft ground is not a concern. Hopefully he has a very good chance."
Defi Du Seuil: pros and cons
PRO Winning machine who arrives in top form
CON Stays much further so a raw speed test might not be ideal
Politologue out to turn the tables
Politologue's trainer Paul Nicholls has been eagerly awaiting a rematch with Defi Du Seuil at a track which he believes suits his grey particularly well.
Winner of the Tingle Creek two years ago under Harry Cobden, Politologue is one of the most consistent chasers around, although some may argue he lacks the class to land Grade 1s on a regular basis.
The counter-argument, of course, is that he was only beaten a length and three-quarters by Altior in the Queen Mother Champion Chase in March.
Nicholls said: "Defi Du Seuil will be hard to beat, but Politologue is 3lb better off this time and it's a different race. I hope he can get a nice tow into it."
Nicholls also saddles Dolos, winner of a handicap chase over course and distance in February.
"He has it all to do at the weights, but loves Sandown," Nicholls said.
Politologue: pros and cons
PRO 3lb better off with Defi Du Seuil for Cheltenham defeat
CON Has often been found out in the best Grade 1 company
Former winner returns in search of history
Un De Sceaux, the oldest runner in the field, is back to add another magic Sandown moment to his already glittering career, carrying the hopes of the O'Connell family, Willie Mullins and Paul Townend.
The 11-year-old has been a regular at the top level for a number of years, taking Tingle Creek honours in 2016 at the expense of Sire De Grugy and just missing out 12 months ago after a thrilling battle with Altior.
The ten-time Grade 1 winner has reportedly been showing plenty of his usual enthusiasm at home, and Townend said: "Un De Sceaux has been a brilliant horse for the yard.
"It's not going to be easy for his first run of the season to be taking on Defi Du Seuil and Politologue, who both have had a run, but it's a race he's run well in at a track he likes and we go there full of hope.
"I'm sure he'll put up a big performance. He wears his heart on his sleeve."
Un De Sceaux: pros and cons
PRO Vastly experienced compared to up-and-coming rivals.
CON No 11-year-old has ever won the Tingle Creek.
Talented pair fly the flag for Munir and Souede
The Simon Munir and Isaac Souede-owned Sceau Royal and Janika will both have their band of supporters.
Alan King is hoping the ground does not deteriorate for Sceau Royal, who was inconvenienced by a very soft surface when finishing last of four behind Altior in the race 12 months ago.
King said: "We know he's a high-class chaser at two miles and he gave us a great thrill when he led over the last fence in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham last March. He couldn't hold off Altior but his third place was a fine effort.
"He's had a lovely preparation and is in great form for his comeback."
Janika launched his campaign with victory in the Grade 2 Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter, and trainer Nicky Henderson said: "We’re having a look with him to see where he stands.
"We're not in an era of a Sprinter Sacre or an Altior, who is going up in trip now, so we thought we'd have a look and see where he stands against the best two-milers.
"He was very good the other day at Exeter and I didn’t really think he wanted two miles, but he won really well so we’ll see what we do after this."
Sceau Royal: pros and cons
PRO Still low mileage and no surprise if he improved again this term
CON Lack of run may prove costly in such exalted company
Janika: pros and cons
PRO Officially rated 3lb better than Defi Du Seuil
CON Not yet tested at Grade 1 company
Jefferson not worried about drop in trip for Waiting Patiently
Things did not pan out for Waiting Patiently last season.
People soon forget, but fans of this horse will remember him beating Politologue as a novice, Cue Card in the Grade 1 Ascot Chase and starting 4-1 for last year's King George.
There are not many miles on the clock and there is still time for Waiting Patiently to prove himself the superstar some believe him to be.
The decision to start him off over 2m will raise some eyebrows, but trainer Ruth Jefferson said: "I'm not concerned because I'm sure they'll go a good pace and it won't be falsely-run. We'll learn something from the race.
"He's in good form and ready to go. We’re looking forward to running him."
Waiting Patiently: pros and cons
PRO Has beaten Politologue in the past
CON Trip might prove on sharp side
Aintree hero Ornua out to spring surprise
Grade 1-winning novice chaser from last season Ornua will bid to build on last month's Naas return behind Cilaos Emery.
Trainer Henry de Bromhead said: "He seems in good form and obviously enjoys the place, having finished second at this meeting last year in the Henry VIII."
Ornua: pros and cons
PRO Won a Grade 1 over two miles as recently as three starts ago
CON Has a bit to find on the figures and well beaten last time