Altior (right) and Un De Sceaux jump the last as one, but up the run-in it was no contest with Nico de Boinville’s mount winning easily
It takes only two to produce something memorable in sport, just look back to last week’s fight between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder in the boxing ring.
With respect to the undercard – third Saint Calvados and last-placed Sceau Royal – the Tingle Creek bout between reigning champion Altior, unbeaten in nine previous chases, and Un De Sceaux, the 2016 race winner, served up another mesmerising encounter.
Ringside as the two warriors returned, Altior and Nico de Boinville mud-caked and Un De Sceaux, pristine of head and colours, it would have been easy to mistake the victor and who had rubbed the other’s face in it.
But far from it. Altior outbattled his older rival and entered the winner’s enclosure to welcoming applause from the Sandown crowd.
Winning trainer Nicky Henderson summed it up by saying: “On paper it was going to be something special with the four best two-mile chasers. It was a great race, a spectacle and the crowd were great.
“That was what top-class two-mile chasing around Sandown is all about.”
Altior did not quite match Fury’s miraculous recovery from the canvas last week but his second-fence aberration let Un De Sceaux and Ruby Walsh dominate the early rounds.
Even owner Patricia Pugh said: “He got his brain in gear only after the second fence when he knew he was back in business – it’s a long time since April isn’t it?”
Henderson preferred to concentrate on the warmed-up Altior, who was foot perfect down the back straight as he and De Boinville plotted their strike.
“Nico was very cool and didn’t get into a dogfight too soon,” added Henderson, mindful of how dangerous Walsh is when dictating a race on a top-class performer. “He really did gallop all the way up the hill – he had to be straight today.
“The ground today was for Land Rovers not Ferraris, but he is a bit of both!”
The crowd was clearly not quite as sure as the cheering did not start even as Altior loomed alongside the leader off the home bend, reserving it until after the last when De Boinville had to give Altior a tap of the whip to stretch clear and win by four lengths.
Unlike the boxing, there were no scorecards needed after that flurry from the last, although a draw might have suited some with the part Un De Sceaux played in an epic Tingle Creek, as he attempted to match Moscow Flyer in being the only other ten-year-old to win the Betfair-backed Grade 1 in its 39 runnings.
Walsh paid tribute, saying: “He’s run a super race. He jumped super and ran his heart out. I’ve never been a great loser and I’m not any better now.”
Altior fans may have a slightly longer than anticipated wait to see him add to his perfect ten out of ten over fences, as it is highly unlikely that he will take part in the 32Red King George next month, although his owner paid £500 to leave him in the 3m Boxing Day feature earlier this week.
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