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Last Updated: 02/12/16 10:37am
Ruby Walsh will be riding Un De Sceaux at Sandown
View from connections ahead of the Betfair Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown on Saturday.
Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh have both admitted to doubts about whether the ground will be soft enough for Un De Sceaux to be at his best in the Betfair Tingle Creek Chase.
After a week of 'will-he-won't-he' headlines surrounding the potential participation of superstar stablemate Douvan, it is Un De Sceaux who picks up the gauntlet for the powerhouse Irish duo.
Un De Sceaux is hardly a bad horse to have as an apparent second string, and while he was beaten at odds on in the Champion Chase at Cheltenham and also second at Sandown, the only horse in front of him was the mighty Sprinter Sacre.
"We'd ideally want the ground softer, it's going to be a tough test," said Mullins. "We're up against battle-hardened horses and our fellow will need to be in top form.
"He was ready a couple of weeks ago for the Fortria Chase (at Navan), but since then I've given him an easy time.
"He worked nicely during the week, but we'll know how nicely on Saturday."
For Walsh, who is less of a passenger these days on the former tearaway, the Railway fences are likely to be some thrill.
"The ground is only good to soft and when they've had the frost covers on it tends to ride a bit better," he said.
"It's always a great race to watch and he's always a good ride. It's a competitive race, but he's still top-rated and he's an exciting horse to ride."
Likely to be taking Un De Sceaux on for the lead is Gary Moore's Ar Mad.
Impressive winner of the Henry VIII on this card last year, he was cruelly forced to miss the big spring meetings through injury.
For a relatively small yard Moore is in the awkward position of having to run his two best horses in the same race, as Sire De Grugy, twice a former winner of this, also lines up.
Adding further split loyalties for the trainer is that Ar Mad is ridden by one son, Josh, with brother Jamie on Sire De Grugy.
"Ar Mad got a fracture after Plumpton. He had a screw put in and fair play to the vets, it's all gone very well," Moore told At The Races.
"He schooled on Monday morning. He was dynamite, he just loves to jump. He went very straight over his fences. He couldn't get over them quick enough. I'm just very pleased with him.
"We've had a very smooth run. It's been pretty straightforward. He hasn't missed a day, but there's nothing like a race to put him cherry ripe.
"He's so quick across a fence. He's not an extremely fast horse, but he's very fast across a fence. He's the quickest jumper I've ever seen.
"He will stay two and a half and it leaves the options a little bit more open."
Jamie Moore said of his mount, who returned to something like his best when winning a handicap off top weight at Ascot recently: "He does enjoy jumping at Sandown. The seven fences down the back suit him. I think it's mainly that he's been in the right races at the right time
"He's won three Grade Ones and a Grade Two there so he must like it and I was very pleased with him at Ascot.
"He's got a little bit lazy so I kept him close to the pace to keep him interested. When he hit the front he was half dossing. It looked like I had gone too soon, but I wanted to get him more motivated and get his head down.
"He pricked his ears going to the last and that shows you he had a bit left in the tank. I think he's just holding back a bit these days."
Tom George also has two chance, multiple Grade One winner God's Own and Haldon Gold Cup victor Sir Valentino.
"Everything at this time of year is a bonus, normally we can only get one or two runs into him before the spring, but this will be his third," said George of God's Own.
"The going was borderline for him at Ascot and when we got there I thought it would be too soft, but we were there so I let him take his chance.
"He still came out of the race the best horse at the weights and it wasn't the trip which found him out, it was the ground.
"It looks like the ground is swinging back in our favour on Saturday, which is a bonus.
"Adrian (Heskin) was asking me if running back quite quickly might work against him, but I told him it was the opposite - look at his performances in the spring when he runs at Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown.
"He's a horse who thrives on his racing, but he just can't run on soft.
"He's as fresh as paint, unbelievably consistent and might just have the fitness edge of Un De Sceaux and Ar Mad, while I'm not sure how good Sire De Grugy will be running back quite quickly."
He added: "Sir Valentino warrants his place, there weren't many options after Exeter.
"He'll be there to pick up the pieces and while he's got to improve to trouble the others, he might pick up some nice prize-money."
Completing the field is the Paul Nicholls-trained Vibrato Valtat, put back in the race when it reopened and third behind Sire De Grugy 12 months ago.