Grade 1 double for Harry Skelton as Politologue bags second Tingle Creek
The two-mile chasers had their day in the sun at Sandown on Saturday with two Grade 1 events, and it ended up a red-letter day for jockey Harry Skelton who steered both Politologue and Allmankind to success in the big races. Chris Nash assesses their performances…
The Betfair Tingle Creek chase saw Politologue line up as the Champion Chase winner from Cheltenham last season. His pre-race mark of 169 had him 5 lbs and upwards clear of his four rivals and he confirmed that status with a commanding front-running performance.
His challengers were on his tail as they bypassed the usual third last (the Pond fence) but he stretched nicely clear from the second last to record a seven-length victory. Politologue’s progressive stablemate Greaneteen finished second and Rouge Vif was a further one and three-quarter lengths away in third. This was a second Tingle Creek success for Politologue – three years on from his first – and a record eleventh for his trainer Paul Nicholls.
Applying race standards to the result suggests that the winning performance falls into the range of 167-170. I settled on a figure of 168+ for the winner and will be leaving his official rating unchanged. This has Greaneteen running to 161 which rates a career best. He has a nicely progressive profile and had won the Haldon Gold Cup on his previous run off a mark of 151 (for which he was raised to 158). As a six-year-old having just his sixth start over fences, he still has scope for further improvement. Rouge Vif has run a figure of 159 which is a little below the 164 he was given for winning a Cheltenham handicap in October. That form has not worked out very well and I have trimmed his official rating to 163.
Much was made of the absence of Altior from Saturday’s race, but it is not hard to imagine that Politologue would have made him pull out all the stops had Nicky Henderson’s charge lined up. The BHA handicappers have Altior’s last four figures at 168+ (when winning the Game Spirit in February 2020), 171 (when beaten by Cyrname in October 2019), 167+ (when winning the Celebration chase in May 2019) and 168+ (when winning the Champion Chase in March 2019). The last time the two horses met was in the 2019 Champion Chase when Altior (168+) beat Politologue (166) by one and three-quarter lengths. I am sure that Politologue is at least as good a horse now as he was then, but can we say the same about Altior?
On the same card, the Planteur At Chapel Stud Henry VIII chase was the first Grade 1 novice chase of the jumps season. It looked a solid contest beforehand with all five runners lining up with unbeaten records over fences. Victory went to the favourite Allmankind who finished two and a half lengths clear of Hitman, with a further eight lengths back to Ga Law. Applying race standards suggests a figure in the range of 151-155 for the winner and I have given Allmankind 154. This has Hitman running to 151 and Ga Law to 143. Four-year-old Allmankind had impressed on his chase debut at Warwick. He was initially rated 151 for that effort but a subsequent win for the runner-up that day (Zanza) and an improved performance in defeat from the third (Stolen Silver) saw him line up on Saturday with an official rating of 153. He looks to have stepped forward again.
This season’s novice chase form is obviously in its infancy, but the two mile division is shaping up nicely with performances of 150 and higher having already been recorded by Allmankind, Shishkin, Fusil Raffles, Gumball and Hitman in Britain. You can add in similar Irish efforts from Unexcepted, Felix Desjy, Andy Dufresne and Darver Star. The future for some of these may well end up being over further than two miles but there is certainly the prospect of some competitive and informative novice contests in the weeks to come.