Politologue landed ten-time champion trainer Paul Nicholls his 10th Tingle Creek Chase victory in 19 years as he pipped Fox Norton by half a length at Sandown.
Nicholls’s six-year-old grey gelding finished fourth in the JLT Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival last season, and fell at the last fence when clear in a Grade One at Aintree.
He kicked off this year’s campaign with a seasonal reappearance win at Exeter in the Haldon Gold Cup before setting the record straight by chalking up his first career Grade One success at Sandown Park.
Politologue went into the race as the 7/2 second favourite to Colin Tizzard’s warm 8/13 market leader Fox Norton.
But, it was Ar Mad who bowled along in front, jumping exuberantly throughout while a couple of slight jumping errors on the first circuit meant Robbie Power found himself further back on Fox Norton than he would have liked.
In comparison, Politologue jumped his obstacles with supreme accuracy allowing him to cruise into the race in the slipstream of the leader, before his rider Harry Cobden allowed him to jump to the front and kick on two fences from home.
Approaching the last Cobden allowed his mount to see a stride before the grey soared over in what proved to be an impeccable display of precision jumping.
Fox Norton was always on the back foot, and although the winning margin was a fast diminishing half a length, Politologue was able to gallop strongly to the line to fend off his challenge.
Nicholls said: “The faster they go and the more he [Politologue] can get a tow into the race the better.
“We tried to make him into a three-miler [for the Cheltenham Gold Cup] but then we went to Aintree [where he fell when clear at the last] and that’s why we’re back at two miles.
“I suspect we’ll go to Ascot with him at the end of January [for the Clarence House Chase] and then on to Cheltenham [for the Queen Mother Champion Chase].”
It was 19-year-old Harry Cobden’s biggest win to date landing a first Grade One of his career in what has been a momentous year for the teenage jockey, after being handed the lucrative ride of Cue Card in last month’s Betfair Chase.
Nicholls said “He’s a really good young jockey and today was a big occasion for him. He’s chilled, and can do the job.”
The victory now means Politologue is priced up at 8/1 for the Champion Chase at next year’s Cheltenham Festival, while Fox Norton who will probably step up in distance is the 7/2 market leader for the Ryanair Chase, which is run over an extended two-and-a-half miles.
Elsewhere on the Sandown card, Alan King’s 11/1 outsider Sceau Royal landed the Grade One Henry VIII Novice Chase in emphatic style, despite many thinking it would be a two-horse-race between Finian’s Oscar and Brain Power.
Finian’s Oscar jumped awkwardly and was outpaced early in the race before plugging on to finish a remote third while Brain Power fell at the last, although at the time had just been headed by a strong travelling Sceau Royal, who powered up the run-in to beat the second, North Hill Harvey, by an impressive 11 lengths.
The victory for King’s bay gelding means quotes of 7/1 for the Arkle at next year’s Cheltenham Festival are now available having previously been 25/1 before Saturday’s Grade One success.
A special mention should also go to Sir Valentino, trainer Tom George and connections.
Sir Valentino, who finished third in last season’s Champion Chase, fell at the final fence in Saturday’s feature race, the Tingle Creek, and sadly lost his life as a result.
His Jockey Adrian Heskin chose to miss his last race of the day so he could stay with Valentino until his final moments.