Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase Preview – Saturday 4th February

Last updated: February 4, 2017 by Leon Marshal

The feature race at Sandown Park on Saturday is the £50,000 Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase over two and a half miles.

The race has always attracted top novices and is regarded as a leading trial for races such as the JLT Novices Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March. Best Mate won this race in 2001 and would go on to win three consecutive Cheltenham Gold Cups. Other high class winners include Beacon Light (1980), Kilbrittain Castle (1983), Berlin (1986), First Bout (1987), Bradbury Star (1992) and Young Hustler (1993).

In more recent years the race has been dominated by Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson who have won seven of the last ten runnings between them. Nicholls won the race for four consecutive seasons between 2006 and 2009 while Henderson last struck with Oscar Whisky in 2014.

preview of the sicily isles novices' chase

Clan Des Obeaux the pick of strong entry from Nicholls

Nicholls entered four horses this year but has indicated that Clan Des Obeaux is his most likely representative. The five-year-old goes well in testing conditions and the forecast is for plenty of rain in the Sandown area this week.

The five-year-old was beaten by Protek Des Flos over hurdles at Cheltenham in January before finishing sixth in the Triumph Hurdle. He finished a fair fourth on his chasing bow at Chepstow in October before getting off the mark impressively at Newbury. He was then narrowly beaten by former high-class staying hurdler Whisper in a Grade 2 at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day.

Le Prezien would be a serious danger if allowed to take his chance. The six-year-old has won his last two starts over fences, most recently beating the smart L’Ami Serge at Exeter in December. He showed plenty of ability over hurdles and finished a respectable second to Yorkhill in a Grade 1 at Aintree in April.

Top Notch targets four-timer at Sandown

Henderson will rely on Top Notch this year after deciding that Buveur D’Air should revert to hurdling and a tilt at the Champion Hurdle.

Top Notch was aimed at that race last season and was not disgraced when finishing fifth to Annie Power. He probably needed the run when narrowly beaten on his chasing debut at Uttoxeter but has gone on to win at Warwick, Plumpton and Ascot. His most recent success confirmed that he stayed beyond two and a half miles, galloping on strongly to beat Sizing Codelco by a length and a quarter.

Gary Moore saddles Baron Alco, a six-year-old gelding by Dom Alco out of a mare by Network. He was a progressive handicap hurdler last season but is bred to go chasing and has done little wrong in his four starts over the larger obstacles. He has been placed twice at Cheltenham and won two minor races at Plumpton. Stable companion Casse Tete was beaten when falling at Lingfield in heavy ground earlier this month. That looked a very tired fall and this race may come a bit too soon for the son of Poliglote.

Hell’s Kitchen needs to settle at Sandown

Rock The Kasbah won a valuable novices’ chase at Chepstow in October but has been beaten twice since. He was well beaten behind O O Seven at Cheltenham before finding Politologue too good at Ascot last month.

Hell’s Kitchen has always been held in high regard by connections and should strip fitter for his run behind Different Gravey in November. That was his first run since April and he raced very keenly early on. His rider will be keen to settle the son of Robin Des Champs in the early stages on Saturday. Calett Mad takes a step up in class after winning handicap chases at Ludlow and Taunton. He comfortably shrugged off a 5lbs penalty last time but all of his best form is over three miles.

Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase Betting Tip

Clan Des Obeaux @2-1 Betway

The Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase is due off at 2.25 at Sandown on Saturday 4th February and will be televised live on ITV4.