Although some races throughout the season are actually named as trials for a particular Cheltenham Festival contests, not all are the most worthy guides.
They may replicate a Festival race in terms of course and distance, but often the way the race is run couldn’t be any different.
At the Festival, most races are run at a consistent quick pace, while they often start slowly in a trial before it turns into a sprint over the final few obstacles. This is especially likely in a small-field trial.
One trial where this is not typically the case and therefore should go into the notebook among the most respected and useful trials to consider is the Tingle Creek at Sandown.
Not only will they go an end-to-end gallop over 2m, but many of the leading Champion Chase protagonists tend to run in it. Except for this year.
Ante-post Tingle Creek favourite Un De Sceaux has reportedly been “a little flat” in his work at home according to trainer Willie Mullins and so was scratched, while Sprinter Sacre is another to be have been withdrawn.
Most recently, Simonsig was also ruled out after being lame.
This has resulted in last month’s Haldon Gold Cup winner Vibrato Valtat being installed as the 2/1 favourite, but he is yet to win on three Grade 1 starts outside of novice company.
Josses Hill has jumping concerns based on last season and so is opposed for this reason, although if improving over the winter in this department, he has the class to win this.
Third Intention isn’t quick enough over this minimal trip at this level, Somersby hasn’t won for two years despite being consistent, Mr Mole tends to jump left which isn’t ideal on a right-handed track and Sire De Grugy has looked a shadow of his former self in three consecutive starts.
With negatives of some variety affecting the majority of the eight-runner field, the safest bet appears to be Special Tiara at 3/1.
The withdrawal of Un De Sceaux should prevent the keen front runner from getting badgered for the lead and should he jump as well as he usually does, the pressure will be on those making errors.
Furthermore, Special Tiara is at his best on good ground and the lack of anticipated rain in recent days will only help to dry out the Sandown surface.
Meanwhile, the eight-year-old won the A P McCoy Celebration Chase at Sandown in April and jockey Noel Fehily indicated that day that the horse was well suited to the demands of the track.
One final point is that Special Tiara’s official rating of 168 is the highest in the field.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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