I have sometimes wondered when I've been watching The Scilly Isles Novice Chase at Sandown what the connection was between former Prime Minister Harold Wilson’s favourite holiday destination and Surrey.
Well, it's pretty thin pickings for a racing news writer at the moment, but today is a timely moment to find out. We’re midwayish between last Saturday's abandonment of the race and its transfer to Newbury if racing goes ahead there at the weekend. The short answer is there's absolutely no connection between the two at all!
In fact, the Scilly Isles in question is a double roundabout somewhere around two furlongs towards London from the main entrance to Sandown racecourse. They form the junction of what was the new Kingston bypass when it was built in the 1930s and the old A3 road (now the A307) from London to Portsmouth. At the time roundabouts were something of a novelty. Indeed the term wasn't in general use; they were generally referred to as "traffic islands".
This pair of traffic islands was seen as so complicated by motorists that they quickly acquired the name of the silly islands, which in time evolved into “the Scilly Isles”.
The jockeys in this 2 mile four furlong Grade 1 event will have to work hard if they are to encounter any traffic problems, as the largest field recently was the nine runners last year. But there have been plenty of high-quality winners over the years, with Best Mate, Senor El Betrutti and Bradbury Star all gracing the winner’s enclosure during the last 20 years.
At the moment there are 12 entries for the rearranged race at Newbury. Three of these, Silviniaco Conti, Cedre Bleu and Pacher du Polder, are from the Paul Nicholls yard, which has produced four of the last six winners. Whichever of these lines up on Saturday must be on the shortlist of possible winners.
Go to sleep Per