Preview of the Scilly Isles Novices' Chase and Free Bets – With yet another weekend blighted by rain, Sandown will be hosting an all chase card (weather permitting) in an attempt to give racing fans some sort of racing action.
The Scilly Isles Novice Chase represents the highlight of the Sandown card and, as is the norm with novice chases this season, only a small field lines up. Undoubtedly the emphasis will be placed on stamina and sound jumping ability in what looks likely to be a slog in the mud.
The market favourite is a leading contender for the JLT Novices’ Chase at the Festival – OSCAR WHISKY (4/9 BetVictor). A former Grade 1 winner over hurdles, this Nicky Henderson trained runner came to fences late in his career but has made a significant impression nonetheless. Despite falling victim to Tacquin Du Seuil in a farcical race, he has since won two competitive races beating the exciting Wonderful Charm and reversing the form with Taquin Du Seuil. So far this horse has solely been campaigned over the Cheltenham fences but has one previous victory at the track on heavy ground over hurdles. He arrives at this contest 14lbs clear of his nearest rival on official ratings and should put in another bold show.
With the ground extremely testing, Paul Nicholls sends over the mud loving Benvolio (3/1 Betfred). So far unbeaten (when completing) over fences, this horse has shown a fondness for truly testing ground with his best form coming on soft and heavy ground. His last start saw him claim victory in a Class 2 Graduation Chase at Haydock on heavy ground where, after being headed coming down the home straight, he battled back to beat his rivals moving away at the line. Daryl Jacob stated after the race that this horse is all about stamina and offers up plenty when asked. That trait will prove ideal in these conditions and he could create a few problems for the favourite.
The field is completed by Manyriverstocross (11/1 bet365) who represents the recovering stable of Alan King. This horse started the season well winning a hot novice chase at Exeter before finishing last at Sandown in a Grade 1 Novices’ Chase. The latter form can be excused to some extent as the Alan King yard was under a cloud at the time. Overall this horse is a good jumper and has won at the track on heavy ground over hurdles. Whether or not he is seen to best effect on testing ground is another matter as a lot of his better efforts have come on good to soft ground.
This race revolves around one horse – OSCAR WHISKY. If he is to justify his position in the ante-post markets for the JLT Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival then he needs to win and do so convincingly. Despite his trainer and jockey stating numerous times that this horse doesn't want truly testing ground, he has solid form on this kind of surface and should prove hard to beat. With only the three runners the race should be run at a sedate pace and should turn into a sprint over the last few furlongs, this will suit the favourite well and his pace should be too much for the other two in opposition. Certainly Benvolio looks to be the biggest danger as he looks to be an out and out stayer and handles the ground very well. He is sure to put up a stern challenge but it will be a surprise to see him beat Oscar Whisky given the difference in quality over both hurdles and fences. Off level weights, and in this company, Oscar Whisky can’t be opposed.
Scilly Isles Novices' Chase Selection –
OSCAR WHISKY (WIN) (4/9 BetVictor)
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