Captain Conan hard to oppose
Ben Coley provides a horse-by-horse guide to the Scilly Isles Novices' Chase at Sandown on Saturday.
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Captain Conan: Grade One-winning novice hurdler who bettered that Tolworth effort when chasing home Darlan at Aintree. Always considered a chaser in the making, he's made a seamless transition to fences in winning at Cheltenham and here over course and distance last time. The form of that Grade One success isn't the strongest with the enigmatic Hinterland in second but Third Intention was beaten fair and square in third and the feeling is Captain Conan had plenty in hand. Step up to two and a half miles could be considered the sole concern but if anything he should improve for it as connections prepare him for a likely tilt at the Jewson. Capable of making his own running as was the case last time and another safe round of jumping should see him hard to beat.
Changing Times: Quickly left behind modest hurdles form since switched to larger obstacles and won well enough at Taunton last time, when setting what was probably too fast a pace given the conditions. Clearly, this is a massive step up in grade and he'll need to improve a stone to win, and role in this race is probably to give the favourite a tow for two miles before being left behind.
Houblon Des Obeaux: Smart form over hurdles in France and confirmed that upon arrival in the UK, giving Third Intention 3lb and a beating on his second start for current connections on heavy ground. Hit and miss since but seemed to improve for a switch to fences, winning his first two starts in ready fashion and impressing with his jumping. However, two subsequent starts over three miles have proved a shade disappointing and on balance a rating of 148 - which gives him 4lb to find with the favourite - is a tad flattering. May well improve for a drop back in trip but will need to as he looks shy of top class.
Third Intention: Reliable sort but twice taken on Captain Conan and twice he's been beaten eight lengths with no excuses, while he's also held by Houblon Des Obeaux on hurdles form. Allowed a soft lead in the Feltham last time and ran well enough but that's unlikely here and he'll need to find improvement from somewhere. Safe jumper but better on a sound surface and although he'll again run his race, providing the favourite runs his this one can't win.
No prizes for originality, but CAPTAIN CONAN should win this on his way to the Cheltenham Festival. Not as flashy as some of his stablemates, he's a proper old-fashioned chaser in the making and a step up in trip should unlock further improvement. He holds Third Intention and can take care of Houblon Des Obeaux with another astute round of jumping.