He can fly – Tingle Creek greats
Gary McKenzie looks back at the great Tingle Creek winners
The Tingle Creek has been won by some brilliant two mile chasers. Names on the honours board include Desert Orchid. He won the race when it was a handicap and he gave 20lbs, and a twelve length beating, to Jim Thorpe in 1988. A few months later our gorgeous grey won the Gold Cup.
It became a Grade One in 1994 when it was won by Viking Flagship.
Dessie is not the only horse to win this and go on to Gold Cup glory. Kauto Star won the race twice before stepping up in trip at Cheltenham.
Flagship Uberalles achieved the only hat trick in the race winning in 1999, 2000, and 2001.
Master Minded and Sprinter Sacre were easy winners who went on to win the Queen Mother Champion Chase (although Master Minded had already won his first Champion Chase before winning here) and Sire De Grugy is another to do the double.
But the race that gets me misty eyed is the 2004 Tingle Creek.
Moscow Flyer was defending his title from 2003. He had unseated Barry Geraghty in the 2004 Champion Chase won by Azertyioup who would reoppose. Arkle winner Well Chief made up a Holy Trinity of chasers.
Azertyioup was the slight odds on favourite with Moscow Flyer around 2/1. Some thought Jessie Harrington’s star was vulnerable to younger legs. The race was a classic in my opinion. Moscow Flyer took it up four out and Geraghty had time to look behind him twice. The two main rivals chased him but could not get closer than a length to him
According to Racing Post Ratings Moscow Flyer ran a personal best (he only bettered it when winning the Champion Chase a few months later). Azertyioup was probably at his peak as his previous two runs and his following run were the joint highest rated of his career alongside this run.
Well Chief matched his rating here just once when finishing second behind Moscow Flyer in his second Champion Chase win.
No excuses for any of the placed horses. They were beaten by a legend that day and we were privileged to witness it.
The horse the race is named after is also a bit of a legend. Tingle Creek was before my time (although he was born the same year as me) but I know those older than me hold the horse in the highest regard.
Hard to catch
He was, as the phrase goes, a bold jumping front runner, and he was very hard to catch. Like many of the greats he would give away lumps of weight in handicaps. He beat Skymas at Punchestown while giving him over a stone. Skymas won two Champion Chases.
Tingle Creek, strangely, won none. In fact he raced at Cheltenham six times with his best result being runner up in the 1974 Champion Chase.
At Sandown, however, he was at his best. Especially if he got good ground or better.
He won the Sandown Handicap Pattern Chase three times, breaking the track record all three times. His last win, at the age of 12, was on ground described as hard!
I have heard that he would sometimes take off before the wings of a fence such was his leap.
I will leave the last words to one of his regular riders, Steve Smith Eccles.
“He was absolutely unbelievable. I never rode a more exciting jumper. There was no such thing as ‘steady away’ with him – he was flat out from start to finish and he would just eat fences. He never seemed to meet a fence wrong, never had to fiddle it, seemed to hurdle his fences with his front legs up around his ears. He met them right, long or effing long!”