By Simon Jackson at Sandown Park
Paul Nicholls secured a Grade 1 double at Sandown on Saturday that was highlighted by the success of Dodging Bullets in the 888.sport Tingle Creek Chase.
Dodging Bullets’ win in the £150,000 feature race followed the victory of stablemate Vibrato Valtat in the Grade 1 Racing Post Henry VIII Novices’ Chase 70 minutes earlier.
The two winners added to the remarkable success of Nicholls who last week bagged his 100th Grade 1 winner when Irving landed the StanJames.com Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle.
Dodging Bullets raced closed to the pace in the two mile contest for jockey Sam Twiston-Davies. The six-year-old challenged two fences out and stayed on strongly to score by two and a half-lengths from Somersby; with the Nicholls-trained Hinterland a further length and half back in third place.
“I thought he would win on the last day at Cheltenham but he travelled well to the second last and just looked like he needed it,” said Nicholls of Dodging Bullets who has been cut to 10-1 from 25s with Paddy Power for the Queen Mother Champion Chase.
“We have done things differently with him since then. He has always been a hard horse to train because he is very buzzy and stressy. We have probably been a bit kind to him. Since his last run we have been very hard on him and put a lot of graft into him.
“I thought today was the best he has ever looked and probably was as fit as he could ever be. When you go for these big races a run like he had at Cheltenham the other day doesn’t go amiss as they have to be mega-fit for these days.
“They have to be at their very, very best as he was today and he galloped all the way to the line. He gets stronger and better and he could definitely be at Cheltenham [for the Queen Mother Champion Chase] with a chance.
“He is a much calmer horse now and my staff have done a fantastic job with him. He is a great jumper and today I knew they would go quick which will always suit him.
“Today was always our aim before Christmas. I will talk to the team and decide whether we will take him to Kempton at Christmas or keep him fresh for the Champion Chase.”
A sad aftermath to the race was the death of multiple-winner Oscar Whisky, who died after fracturing a hind leg when falling at the fifth fence.
Jockey Barry Geraghty took to Twitter to pay tribute to the talented nine-year-old, a winner of 16 of his previous 27 starts.
“Very saddened to have lost a real warrior in Oscar Whisky,” Geraghty tweeted. There are very few horses I rode more winners on he was so genuine and tough RIP.”
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