The Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase is a Grade 1 contest over 2 miles 4 furlongs. Despite the title, the race isn’t named after the islands off the Cornish coast, it is in fact named after an infamous roundabout close to Sandown Park in Esher, Surrey, where the race is run.
This is the last Grade 1 Novices’ Chase before the Cheltenham Festival so plays a crucial part of the season for many promising new chasers. The first running took place in 1964, with familiar past winners including Best Mate, Oscar Whisky and Bristol De Mai.
Next Race: TBD
The next renewal of this race has not been scheduled yet. We will update this once the schedule has been released for next season. The race info, trends and tips shown below will be updated for the next renewal once the final declarations have been made.
Last Run: 6th February 2021
- Winner: Sporting John
- SP: 14/1
- Trainer: Philip Hobbs
- Jockey: Richard Johnson
The trip is 2m4f for this Grade 1 Novices’ Chase, with the heavy ground at the track set to provide a thorough test at the distance. The event offers £35,000 in total prize money and regularly attracts runners bound for the Cheltenham Festival.
|Going||Distance||Grade||Prize Money||Runners||EW Terms|
|Heavy||2m4f||Grade 1||£35,000||7 Runners||1/4 1-2|
Scilly Isles Novices' Chase Betting Tips
Note: The following tips are from 2021. Tips for the next renewal will be added once the final declarations have been made.
Nicky Henderson tops the all-time trainers' table in this event with six wins in total, and an impressive four victories in the space of the last eight years. Bidding to making it a lucky seven for the Lambourn handler this year is the talented mare, Dame De Compagnie.
Open to all novice chasers aged five and older, youth has been favoured here of late, with seven of the past eight to come home in front being either five or six years of age. Applying that criteria to this year’s field would leave only the six year old Sporting John and five year old Hitman.
The favourites have a rock-solid strike rate in this event with five wins in the past 10 years. There have been a few short prices in amongst that lot, but supporters of the market leader would still have snuck into a profit of 95p to £1 level stakes over this period.
|Shan Blue||5/2||152||Dan Skelton||Harry Skelton|
|Dame De Compagnie||5/1||148||Nicky Henderson||Nico de Boinville|
Shan Blue – 5/2
Just the seven go to post this year, but it’s a talented septet, and narrowing down the list is no straightforward task. Despite that recent trend towards the youngsters, it is the older performers who dominate this year’s field in terms of numbers, and overall we wouldn’t be too surprised were it to be a couple of those aged seven and above who are involved in the finish here. The market seems to agree with that assessment, as the first runner to catch our eye is the current favourite for the race, Dan Skelton’s four-time seeking gelding, Shan Blue.
Fairly talented as a hurdler – when good enough to finish sixth in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival – it was always thought that this son of Shantou would be seen in an even better light over fences, and in three starts over the larger obstacles to date he has certainly delivered on that assessment.
Miles too good for the field when producing back to back demolition jobs in Class 4 events at Wetherby, Shan Blue then faced his acid test in the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase on the Boxing Day card at Kempton. Again doing all of his own donkey work, he powered away from the extremely highly regarded The Big Breakaway after the last that day to score by almost four lengths. The question mark does come with the fact that he will be stepping down in trip from 3m, but with the ground riding as it is, that proven stamina is a useful asset to have in his locker and, if able to get into a rhythm up front once again, he may well prove tough to stop.
Dame De Compagnie – 5/1
Sitting on a mark of 152 it is the aforementioned Shan Blue and Messire Des Obeaux who are the joint top-rated runners in the field. However, the one to back strictly from a ratings standpoint is Nicky Henderson’s Dame De Compagnie. Rated 148, but in receipt of seven pounds as the only mare in the field, she effectively has three pounds in hand on the figures. Things rarely work out exactly as the figures suggest they might, but this JP McManus owned runner does have a couple of other factors in her favour.
The first of which is, of course, her trainer's excellent record in the race – a 50% strike rate over the past eight seasons is certainly not to be sniffed at. This daughter of Lucarno’s form also stacks up pretty nicely too. Her excellent win in a fiercely run Coral Cup last season over 2m5f on soft ground at the Cheltenham Festival auguring well for her chances of seeing out this slightly shorter trip on heavy ground, particularly as it was only in the closing stages that she really began to assert her authority.
Of course, the Coral Cup takes place over hurdles, and whilst Dame De Compagnie will be making only her second chase start here, she could scarcely have been more impressive on her debut over the large obstacles at Ayr in January. She jumped with aplomb on her way to slamming the useful Cornerstone Lad by nine lengths that day. This is a big step up in class but she retains untapped potential in this sphere and rates a threat to all.
Scilly Isles Novices' Chase Winners
|2021||Sporting John||14/1||Philip Hobbs||Richard Johnson|
|2020||Itchy Feet||7/1||Olly Murphy||Gavin Sheehan|
|2019||Defi Du Seuil||7/2||Philip Hobbs||Barry Geraghty|
|2018||Terrefort||15/8||Nicky Henderson||Daryl Jacob|
|2017||Top Notch||11/4||Nicky Henderson||Daryl Jacob|
|2016||Bristol De Mai||10/11||Nigel Twiston-Davies||Daryl Jacob|
|2015||Gitane Du Berlais||9/2||Willie Mullins||Daryl Jacobs|
|2014||Oscar Whisky||1/6||Nicky Henderson||Barry Geraghty|
|2013||Captain Conan||1/2||Nicky Henderson||Barry Geraghty|
|2012*||For Non Stop||3/1||Nick Williams||Noel Fehily|
*Race was run at Newbury due to Sandown abandonment.
About the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase
The novices’ chasing division is one of the most exciting in jumps racing. Many horses graduate from hurdles with big reputations only to fail to make the step up when it comes to the bigger obstacles. At the same time there are always unheralded horses who thrive when given the chance to compete over fences. The Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase is one of a number of very important races in the exciting novices’ chasing division.
The Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase was introduced in 1964. Although you may think it was named after the Isles of Scilly, in fact, the race gets its name from a local roundabout! Races don’t get much more glamourous than that! When the roundabout – which is between the two Surrey towns of Kingston upon Thames and Esher – was introduced, it was known as the ‘silly islands’ by locals hence the name.
A Serious Test
Despite its name, there is nothing silly about the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase. Indeed, this is a very serious race which is run at the Grade 1 level. The race trends show that a previous win in a Graded race is an important indicator of success in the Scilly Isles Chase whilst those who have experience of Sandown have a slight statistical edge as well.
The careers of Scilly Isles competitors can go in a few different directions. That’s because of its distance of 2 miles, 4 furlongs and 10 yards. Two and a half miles is long enough for inexperienced chasers who go on to become stayers yet short enough for quicker horses who stick to this sort of middle distance trip.
Important Cheltenham Pointers
Perhaps the most important element of the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase is its timing. It takes place every year in either late January or early February which is just the perfect place in the schedule. At this stage of the season, the leading contenders in the novices’ chasing division have already made themselves known and the Cheltenham Festival is just around the corner.
For most punters, the best thing about the Scilly Isles Chase is the chance to get some important pointers ahead of Cheltenham. It has had a particularly close relationship with the Golden Miller Novices’ Chase since that race was introduced at Cheltenham in 2011. The record of Scilly Isles winners has improved in recent years with Defi Du Seuil becoming the first winner of both races in 2019.
Scilly Isles Chase Winners at Cheltenham: 2010 – 2020
|Year||Scilly Isles Chase Winner||Cheltenham Race & Position|
|2020||Itchy Feet||Unseated – Golden Miller (Marsh) Novices’ Chase|
|2019||Defi Du Seuil||1st – Golden Miller (JLT) Novices’ Chase|
|2018||Terrefort||2nd – Golden Miller (JLT) Novices’ Chase|
|2017||Top Notch||2nd – Golden Miller (JLT) Novices’ Chase|
|2016||Bristol De Mai||2nd – Golden Miller (JLT) Novices’ Chase|
|2015||Gitane Du Berlais||Did Not Run|
|2014||Oscar Whisky||Fell – Golden Miller (JLT) Novices’ Chase|
|2013||Captain Conan||5th – Golden Miller (Jewson) Novice’s Chase|
|2012||For Non Stop||3rd – Golden Miller (Jewson) Novice’s Chase|
|2011||Medermit||4th – The Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase|
|2010||Punchestowns||5th – RSA Chase|
It’s not just the proximity in time to Cheltenham that means the Scilly Isles Chase provides so many pointers. Sandown is a particularly tough track for novices to race at. The going is usually soft around this time in the winter and the infamous fences on the railway straight provide a real test of a horse’s jumping.
Although there are plenty of differences between Sandown and Cheltenham – Sandown is a right-handed track and much flatter than Cheltenham – novices who pass the test in the Scilly Isles Chase should be seriously considered for the Festival. This really is one to follow ahead of the March spectacular.