Virgin Bet Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase (Grade 1)

THE Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase looked at the mercy of the Venetia Williams-trained L’Homme Presse, and so it proved, with Charlie Deutsch gaining the first Grade 1 success on the unbeaten chaser.

In a field of five the seven-year-old was sent off at 8/13, and his only real concern throughout the race was the behaviour of Gladiateur Allen, who unseated Chester Williams at the seventh, before running loose and threatening to cause interference.

A fine jump at the 12th fence sent the favourite clear, and he gradually left his weary rivals in his wake to record a 21-length success over Mister Coffey (Nicky Henderson/Nico de Boinville), who did his chances no good by literally destroying the open ditch in front of the stands on the first circuit.

Pic D’Orhy was a disappointment, beaten 27 lengths into third, but with the exception of Dolos, all of Paul Nicholls’s runners over the weekend, and the week preceding it, failed to fire.

L’Homme Presse is on target for the Turners Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham next month, for which he is now a top-priced 5/1 behind Bob Olinger.

Good test

“It was great, wasn’t it?” said Williams, who was gaining her first Grade 1 winner since Golden Goal and Norman Williamson landed this very race exactly 20 years ago. “I’m sure he had plenty of petrol left in the tank, and Sandown has always been a good test of jumping and that is what you have got to do.

“I’m always looking at what scalps has he got in the cupboard and what has he beaten to this point. You can always easily tone down your expectations if you look at it from that point of view.

“With this horse, I was surprised he was odds-on favourite, but it is the manner of his jumping and the way he has done it which gives everyone the optimism. I could not be more pleased with him.”

After a few more disappointments, notably poor runs from both Frodon and Greaneteen, a concerned Paul Nicholls shut up shop for a few days, but explained why he’ll be running his horses again this weekend:

“Dolos won at the weekend, but one or two ran disappointing; we’re trying to find out why, but if you don’t run then you can’t find anything, we won’t turn the corner if we keep ducking the issue. If the guys who ride them every day say they are well, then we should be running them.”