For the uninitiated, Tingle Creek was bold, front-running ‘chaser, described by Timeform as, “on occasions, the best two-mile chaser around when conditions were in his favour”. He ran in the Sandown Handicap Pattern Chase six years running between 1973 and 1978, winning three times and breaking the track record each time he did so.
The race named after Tingle Creek, fittingly a two-mile ‘chase staged at Sandown Park in Esher, Surrey, where it forms the highlight of the two-day Tingle Creek Christmas Festival in early December, was won by the horse in 1973, but is not a successor to the Sandown Handicap Pattern Chase. The Tingle Creek Chase was, in fact, inaugurated as the Benson & Hedges Gold Cup in 1969, before being renamed the Tingle Creek Handicap Chase in 1979 and becoming a Grade 1 ‘Weight-for-Age’ contest in 1994. Since then, the roll of honour for the Tingle Creek Chase reads like a “Who’s Who” of the two-mile chasing division, with winners including Viking Flagship, Flagship Uberalles, Moscow Flyer, Kauto Star, Twist Magic, Master Minded, Sprinter Sacre and Sire De Grugy.
Of course, one race doesn’t make a festival, but the supporting card for the Tingle Creek Chase also includes the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase, another Grade 1 contest, run over the same course and distance as the Tingle Creek Chase, but open to novice ‘chasers – that is, horses that have not won a steeplechase before the start of the current season – aged four years and upwards. Named after King Henry VIII, who regularly hunted in Esher, the race was elevated to Grade 1 status in 2011. In 2016, the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase was won by Altior, who went on to win the Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in 2017 and the Queen Mother Champion Chase in 2018. Sceau Royal, an impressive 11-length winner of the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase in 2017, was also a leading fancy for the Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in 2018, but missed the race after a slight setback.