The cold weather has hit the National Hunt scene hard with seven meetings being cancelled in the week and Sandown is the only National Hunt card to go ahead on Saturday following the cancellation of Wetherby and Musselburgh.
The feature race on a good card from Sandown is the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase. This is a race that has been dominated in the past four years by Daryl Jacob and the double green of Simon Munir and Isaac Souede. They won this last year with Terrefort, trained by Nick Henderson, who battled out the finish with Cyrname, trained by Paul Nicholls, with the third placed horse thirty lengths behind. For me, it pretty much summed up National Hunt racing. Henderson and Nicholls are unrepresented this year. Other top trainer Colin Tizzard has Lostintranslation in the line up. The Fleminsfirth gelding couldn’t keep up with La Bague Au Roi, who is taking on the Irish in Ireland on Sunday, on his first two chase starts but he was a really gutsy winner of the Dipper at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day, finishing ahead of Defi Du Seuil.
Vinndication (One of my 20 To Watch for this season) is one of the more fancied runners and likely favourite. Unbeaten under rules, the well-named son of Vinnie Roe was very good over hurdles beating Coolany, Champ and Dell Oro, who he faces again. His season last year finished in February when he won a Listed Hurdle in nice style but missed the major festivals. He was even money favourite for his chase debut at Carlisle in November and he jumped nicely to win by two lengths. He stepped up to grade two company last time out and once again won well- just not by a large margin. He comes across as a horse who does just as much as he needs to do but seems to be the one with the most scope. I’ll be very disappointed if he loses his unbeaten record in this.
Defi Du Seuil was unbeaten in his first seven starts, including in three grade ones and two grade twos, as a Juvenile but had a disappointing 2017/18 campaign when we’ll beaten in a grade two and the Irish Champion Hurdle. He made his chase debut in a grade two and finished last of the five, outclassed and jumped badly throughout. Next time out, he won a very competitive class two novice chase and that must have given him lots of confidence as he was much better last time out when in behind Lostintranslation.
Mulcahys Hill’s best performance to date was when he was second in a grade one novices’ hurdle. He was pulled up in the Albert Bartlett in March and made his debut over fences over a trip too far so that run can be ignored. Last time out, he was a good second, beaten just one length next time out behind a decent horse of Phillip Hobbs’, who had previously been second to Vinndication. He is one of my ’20 To Watch’ horses as I’ve always thought he would be a good chaser. I would be surprised if he won this but I am sure he will win a chase sometime soon.
Dell Oro did well to win last time out after placing on his other two chase starts. Gary Moore’ s gelding was beaten over thirty one lengths by Vinndication over hurdles so has a lot to find.