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.
Scilly Isles Novices' Chase Course Map (Chase Course)
Scilly Isles Novices' Chase Past Winners
|2023||Gerri Colombe||10/11||Gordon Elliott||Jordan Gainford|
|2022||L'Homme Presse||8/13||Venetia Williams||Charlie Deutsch|
|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|
|2011||Medermit||5/2||Alan King||Robert Thornton|
|2010||Punchestowns||4/11||Nicky Henderson||Barry Geraghty|
|2009||Herecomesthetruth||7/4||Paul Nicholls||Ruby Walsh|
|2008||Silverburn||10/11||Paul Nicholls||Sam Thomas|
|2007||New Little Bric||10/11||Paul Nicholls||Ruby Walsh|
|2006||Napolitain||3/1||Paul Nicholls||Tony McCoy|
|2005||El Vaquero||4/1||Henrietta Knight||Jim Culloty|
|2004||Patricksnineteenth||7/2||Paul Webber||Tom Doyle|
*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 isn’t necessarily and important indicator of success in the Scilly Isles Chase whilst those who have experience of Sandown do have a slight statistical edge.
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.
The last three Scilly Isles Chase winners have tackled the Broadway Novices’ Chase at the festival following victory at Sandown. Sporting John was a faller in 2021 however L’Homme Presse won at the Festival in 2022, Gerri Colombe narrowly missed out on a Cheltenham win by a short head in 2023.
Scilly Isles Chase Winners at Cheltenham: 2010 – 2023
|Year||Scilly Isles Chase Winner||Cheltenham Race & Position|
|2023||Gerri Colombe||2nd – Broadway (Brown Advisory) Novices’ Chase|
|2022||L’Homme Presse||1st – Broadway (Brown Advisory) Novices’ Chase|
|2021||Sporting John||Fell – Broadway (Brown Advisory) Novices’ Chase|
|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.