Dan Skelton admits Nube Negra faces a “big task” if he is to secure a first Grade One victory in the Betfair Tingle Creek at Sandown Park on Saturday (4th December).
However, the trainer believes his rising star has improved again since his comeback success at in Grade Two company at Cheltenham earlier this month.
The seven year old will renew rivalries at the weekend with the Willie Mullins-trained Chacun Pour Soi in what promises to be an intriguing clash in the prestigious two-mile contest.
Having finished one place ahead of Chacun Pour Soi when filling the runner-up spot in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March, the Susannah Ricci-owned nine year old exacted revenge on Nube Negra with an impressive victory at Punchestown the following month.
However, Nube Negra laid down a marker to his rivals with a stylish win on his return in the Grade Two Shloer Chase at Cheltenham earlier this month, a success Skelton hopes can now be replicated on what will be his fifth start at the highest level.
Skelton said: “It is a Grade One and Willie is bringing over Chacun Pour Soi who is very good and though it’s his first start of the season I wouldn’t think he will be needing the run.
“We beat him at Cheltenham in the Champion Chase but he beat us on slower ground at Punchestown at the back end of the season.
“I’ve got our horse as well as I can have him. The forecast looks like it will give us decent ground which suits us a lot. We know we have got a big task on but I’m really looking forward to it.
“A repeat of that Cheltenham run will put him very close and with Chacun Pour Soi there he will maybe need a little bit more, but I think he has improved a bit.”
Nube Negra tasted defeat on his previous visit to Sandown Park when finishing second over course and distance behind Esprit Du Large in the 2019 Henry VIII Novices Chase, but Skelton is confident he will not be found wanting come the closing stages on this occasion.
He added: “It was on significantly slower ground than it will be on Saturday when he last ran at Sandown and he is now an older, stronger and better horse than that day.
“He is seeing his races out significantly better than he used to. Politologue went a strong gallop the other day and there was no hiding place. He was bang there and I was delighted with what he was able to do off a strong pace at the end of a race.”
Reflecting on Nube Negra’s latest success Skelton believes he could not have enjoyed a better preparation ahead of his return to Grade One company.
He said: “Going to the Shloer was a bit of a change of plan. Two weeks before the race I saw the forecast was going to go our way so I thought we have got to be in there.
“He travelled through it at Cheltenham very well and I’ve made no secrets about how fast he is. He travelled and jumped beautifully at Cheltenham the last day. You couldn’t have asked for much more.”
While Chacun Pour Soi and Nube Negra may be first and second respectively in the Tingle Creek betting, Skelton expects it to be much more than just a two horse battle.
He added: “Aside from us and Chacun Pour Soi, Paul (Nicholls) has primed Greaneteen for it so it should be a great race.
“It’s a strong contest and the fences around Sandown will make it a real test. We are looking to get that Grade One by his name and that is what we are trying to do for all of them. It is great to have a runner in a Grade One with a real chance.”
Nube Negra will face a maximum of seven rivals as the confirmations were revealed today. Barry Orr, spokesman for race sponsors Betfair, commented: “Chacun Pour Soi is heading the market at 6/5 but there has been some support for the Shloer winner, Nube Negra, who finished a length in front of the favourite in the Champion Chase. He is 2/1 from 11/4. Greaneteen, who was just half a length behind Chacun Pour Soi in the same race is 7-2 from 5-1.”