Messire sights set on Scilly success

Alan King has brought forward Messire Des Obeaux’s Cheltenham Festival a couple of weeks, with the Virgin Bet Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase his chief target.

Due to his history of leg trouble, King did not even enter the nine-year-old for next month’s feature meeting and is pinning his hopes on gaining a first Grade One of the season at the Esher venue.

Prior to this term, Messire Des Obeaux had only managed one appearance since April 2017, but he is now unbeaten in two chase starts, impressively winning a Grade Two last time out.

“I don’t think the rain on Thursday night was very welcome. He should handle it though, he has before and I don’t think we’ll be using it as an excuse,” said King.

“We didn’t put him in anything at Cheltenham. I didn’t think it would suit him, so there weren’t many other options and this looked the place to come.

“Obviously this is another big step up in class for him, but his form is pretty solid. The horse who finished third to him at Wincanton (Lieutenant Rocco) bolted up on Thursday.

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“That was a Grade Two, this is now a Grade One, so we’ll just see what happens – I’m very happy with the horse this end anyway.”

Another unbeaten over fences is Dan Skelton’s Shan Blue, who has been very impressive in three outings, including when beating The Big Breakaway in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton last time out.

“I’m really happy with Shan Blue and he has come out of the Kauto Star at Kempton over Christmas really well,” said Skelton.

“We’ve given him a good bit of time until this. I actually think the trip is perfect for him and we know he is effective right-handed, as we saw last time out.

Shan Blue (left) was impressive at Kempton over Christmas
Shan Blue (left) was impressive at Kempton over Christmas (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“Sandown should be a fine track for him and he has raced on soft, so I’m not worried about the ground at all. I’m really looking forward to him and I don’t think there are any negatives.”

The Philip Hobbs-trained Sporting John looked very promising in novice hurdles, but he needs to bounce back from a disappointing effort at the Cheltenham Festival and a below-par run on his chasing debut.

“At Exeter he jumped extremely well, but he just ran below form. He seems in very good form now and everything seems to have gone well. Hopefully he will put up another good run on Saturday,” said Hobbs.

“We could have looked for a smaller race, but connections have decided this is the way they want to campaign the horse for the moment.

“We will see if he handles the ground at the weekend, but he certainly copes fine with soft ground, so hopefully he can act on this ground.”

Sporting’s John’s owner JP McManus is also represented by Nicky Henderson’s Coral Cup winner Dame De Compagnie.

Hitman chased home Skelton’s Allmankind over two miles last time out and Paul Nicholls is keen to see how he gets on up in trip.

“He worked great on Thursday morning and I’m really looking forward to running him at Sandown,” said Nicholls.

“Physically he’s improved enormously. He’s a proper horse and it’s a proper race.

“I think two and a half miles is well within his capabilities. The ground will be attritional, but remember he’s only ever run in the heavy.”

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