Un De Sceaux (far side) noses ahead to win the Tingle CreekPICTURE: Getty Images
Un De Sceaux storms
to Tingle Creek success
Report: Sandown, Saturday
Betfair Tingle Creek Chase (Grade 1) 1m7½f, 4yo+
UN DE SCEAUX and Ruby Walsh prevailed in one of the most thrilling races likely to be seen all season, getting the better of a barnstorming battle with Sire De Grugy.
The absence of the winner's stablemate Douvan may have dominated the pre-race build-up but the contest itself could scarcely have been any more exciting as Un De Sceaux and Sire De Grugy, two top-notch chasers in their own right, gave everything in a pulsating battle to the line.
But it was the Willie Mullins-trained Un De Sceaux, sent off as the well-supported 5-4 favourite, who crossed the line a length to the good.
"He was very impressive," said Walsh. "We went a really good gallop and he doesn't have to lead. He is keen but is not the fastest horse in the world.
"We got past [Sire De Grugy] two out but he put down at the last and had to fight back - it takes two horses to make a great race."
Un De Sceaux remains a general 10-1 chance to go one better than last year and win the Betway Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
How the race was won
Un De Sceaux has been regarded as something of a tearaway in the past but he proved tractable for Walsh, as he elected to take a lead from Ar Mad, who blasted into a clear lead and produced some bold and stunning leaps.
Ar Mad's bravery and enthusiasm proved to be his downfall, as he made a serious error at the first of the railway fences (six from home), at which point Un De Sceaux breezed into the lead closely attended to by Sire De Grugy, who was seeking a record-equalling third Tingle Creek.
Un De Sceaux and Sire De Grugy jumped the pond fence cleanly and turned for home locked in unison, with both horses holding every chance and seemingly with plenty left to give.
Sluggish jumps at the final two fences from Un De Sceaux appeared to tip the scales in favour of Sire De Grugy, but Walsh's mount rallied gamely, showing courage to match his undoubted class, and grabbed victory.
God's Own, who had made a serious error at the second, stayed on well to finish a close-up third without ever quite getting there.
The win was a welcome tonic for Mullins, who recently had 60 Gigginstown-owned horses removed from his yard, tragically lost Vautour in a paddock accident and is facing a serious threat to his Irish champion trainer's crown from Gordon Elliott.