Greaneteen will try to make it a 13th win for trainer Paul Nicholls as he defends his Betfair Tingle Creek Chase title at Sandown on Saturday.
The eight-year-old was a surprise 12/1 victor in the two-mile highlight last term as odds-on favourite Chacun Pour Soi flopped, but the Nicholls runner is set to go off at much skinnier odds this time, as he seeks a fourth Grade One success at his favourite track.
Greaneteen, who has also won the Celebration Chase for the last two years, boasts his highest career rating of 171 coming into this contest after a perfect reappearance at Exeter last month, where he defied top-weight in the Haldon Gold Cup to dish out a seven-length beating to stablemate Dolos.
Nicholls saddled Kauto Star, Twist Magic, Master Minded and Politologue to win two Tingle Creeks and has every confidence Greaneteen can give his owner Chris Giles another thrill by adding his name to that illustrious list.
He said: “His whole work has been much improved from what it was a year ago. He’s a much-improved horse and he ran like it (at Exeter). To win off 168 beating decent horses in the manner he did, it confirmed what we thought – that he was much better this year.
“It’s a great race to win, we’ve had some lovely horses win it over the years and it’s a race we target and do well in. Sandown is a fantastic jumping track, horses have got to jump and stay around there so you need the right horse and have him right on the day.
“Touch wood ours seems to be in great form this year, they seem to have improved physically and the way they have been running – I just hope Greaneteen can carry that forward and make it 13.
“It was a lifetime ambition of Chris’ to win the Tingle Creek and last year was a day he’ll never forget. No one else fancied him, but I did.
“He needed the run badly in the Haldon Gold Cup last year as he’d had a few little issues, but I had a month to get some proper work into him and he won the race nicely. We’ve definitely had a much easier run into the race this year.”
Paul Nicholls’ 12 Tingle Creek wins
Flagship Uberalles (1999)
Kauto Star (2005, 2006)
Twist Magic (2007, 2009)
Master Minded (2008, 2010)
Dodging Bullets (2014)
Politologue (2017, 2020)
In what looks a fascinating renewal, Shishkin returns to action for the first time since pulling up in the Champion Chase at Cheltenham in March.
Having got the better of Energumene in a pulsating Clarence House Chase at Ascot in January, a second instalment was anticipated at the Festival – but jockey Nico de Boinville called time after the eighth fence and it later transpired the gelding was suffering from a rare bone condition.
Nicky Henderson reports him to be sparkling at home, and hopefully ready to show his brilliant best again.
He said: “I think he looks fantastic, his schooling has been as brilliant as ever, he jumped 10 fences on Wednesday, Nico has been really pleased with him, he rides him in most of his work and Jayden, who rides him day-to-day, thinks he feels great.
“There seems to be a lot of confidence coming out of Ditcheat (about Greaneteen) – which I respect – but you’ve got to go back and hope we’ve got the Shishkin that ran at Ascot in that epic battle with Energumene last year which was the race of the season. If he’s back to that then he’ll be very competitive.
“I can’t guarantee that, he obviously had a major problem after Cheltenham, but I am confident it is behind us as everything has gone very well.
“There’s no doubt there’s improvement to come, it’s his first run since March. Most of ours have come on a bit for a run, but they have started to win first time out now so I’m hopeful. But it will be a big test.”
Alan King’s Edwardstone, winner of the Arkle in March, is another leading player along with his Aintree conqueror Gentleman De Mee, who represents Willie Mullins.
Pat Fahy fields a second Irish-trained contender in outsider Dunvegan, with the Venetia Williams-trained Funambule Sivola completing a select sextet.