Gutsy Un De Sceaux storms to thrilling Sandown success
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 to win the Betfair Tingle Creek Chase.
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 dramatic 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.
The scales swung back and forth on multiple occasions up the famous hill - which has been the scene of some of the greatest races of all time - 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 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
In the past Un De Sceaux has thrilled racegoers with tearaway performances, where he has set off at a relentless gallop and used his raw power to pulverise his rivals. However, a more refined but equally effective model was on display here as he took a lead from the Gary Moore-trained Ar Mad, stablemate of Sire De Grugy, who blasted to the head of affairs and produced some bold and stunning leaps reminiscent of an in-full-flight Un De Sceaux.
Ar Mad's bravery and enthusiasm proved to be his downfall, however, 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.
Sire De Grugy was also bidding to become the first ten-year-old to win the Tingle Creek since the great Moscow Flyer famously triumphed against Azertyuiop and Well Chief in 2004.
Both horses turned for home locked in unison but sluggish jumps at the final two fences from Un De Sceaux appeared to give the advantage to Sire De Grugy. However, 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 involved.