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  • Writer's pictureSimon Long

'I was blown away' - emotional King taken aback as Edwardstone excels at Sandown

Never mind ducking and diving, the Betfair Tingle Creek served up a heavyweight clash worthy of headlining any bill and it was Edwardstone who landed the knockout blow to leave winning trainer Alan King on the brink of tears.

After a jumps season thus far dominated by quick ground and high-profile non-runners, three of the biggest names in the two-mile chase division squared off, with last year's winner Greaneteen and superstar Shishkin dominating the head of the market.

However, it was Edwardstone, stepping into the Grade 1 arena outside of novice company for the first time, who took up the running after the second-last before powering clear of Greaneteen for an impressive nine-length success, with Shishkin a further six lengths away in third.

Like the majority looking on from Sandown's buzzing grandstand, King was taken aback by Edwardstone's dominance in such a high-class field, while the criticism aimed in his direction for not running his horse before the start of December, and the fact he was landing a first Tingle Creek, brought the trainer's emotions to the surface.

"It's very special and means a lot," said King, pausing to clear the lump in his throat before he continued. "The Tingle Creek is one of my favourite races and I think I was just blown away with how well he did it. It's one the most emotional wins I've had, just because of the flak we've been through."

Edwardstone had initially been earmarked for Cheltenham's Shloer Chase on November 13 or the Hurst Park Handicap Chase at Ascot six days later, but ground his trainer deemed was too quick meant last season's Arkle winner missed both races and instead he was left to take on the big guns on his first start of the season.

"He's a big heavy horse, that's why we couldn't risk him earlier in the year," explained King. "I know there's been a lot said about it but we do know what we're doing with these horses. I get slightly miffed by some of the comments.

"This is the nicest ground I've walked all autumn. It's streets ahead of Ascot and even Newbury last week."

Among the first people King thanked after Edwardstone's dominant performance was Shishkin's trainer Nicky Henderson, who had accommodated the winner for a crucial piece of work at his base in Lambourn last week.

Leading trainer Gordon Elliott had suggested earlier in the week that trainers in Britain had become accustomed to ducking and diving to avoid their rivals before Cheltenham in March, but even after Edwardstone had worked impressively on his training grounds, Henderson stood firm to this challenge.

"I owe Nicky a huge thank you for letting me take him to Seven Barrows last week and we got a proper bit of work into him," said King. "I've already sent him one case of wine and I'm going to have to send him a second now!

"Nicky gave me one of his best work-riders to lead the gallop and it was just what we needed, but I still thought whatever he did today he'd probably come on for it."

The prospect of further improvement must be a daunting one for Edwardstone's rivals in the two-mile chase division and he was cut to a general 7-2 second favourite for the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase behind last season's winner Energumene, who tops the market at a top-price 7-4 with Betfred.

King added: "I had in the back of my mind that we'd probably go to Kempton for the Desert Orchid [next]. We're obviously working back from the Queen Mother. Whether we have one or two runs before we'll see and obviously the Game Spirit will also come into it. I wanted to get today out of the way and he's exceeded my expectations."

Edwardstone, owned by Robert Abrey and Ian Thurtle, provided rider Tom Cannon with his first Grade 1 success when winning the Henry VIII Novices' Chase on this card last year and he was acutely aware of the role the eight-year-old is playing in his career.

"When you're upsides Shishkin and still swinging, it's a special feeling," Cannon said. "He's fantastic to be associated with and such a good horse. When I ride him I feel like we've got a bit of a bond. I can ride him purely off instinct and it definitely helps in a race like that."

Photo - Tom Cannon & Edwardstone - Tingle Creek - By Edward Whitaker


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