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Last Updated: 31/01/14 12:35pm
Oscar Whisky: Scilli Isles hopeful
Nicky Henderson is praying Saturday's meeting at Sandown is given the green light to allow Oscar Whisky to continue his education over fences in the Betfred TV Scilly Isles Novices' Chase.
The top-class hurdler was narrowly beaten by Taquin Du Seuil on his chasing debut at Cheltenham in November, but has struck twice at Prestbury Park since and will aim to complete the hat-trick against just two opponents in Saturday's Grade One feature.
Testing conditions are assured for the extended two-and-a-half-mile contest, but Henderson is more concerned about the fixture going ahead than the ground his charge is likely to encounter.
"We hope racing takes place, that's the main thing, as we desperately want to get another run into him," said the champion trainer.
"The conditions might not be ideal, but he has form in soft ground, so we'll see what happens.
"He's in good form."
Oscar Whisky carries the colours of Dai Walters, who said: " I've spoken to Nicky and he tells me he's in good form. There's only three runners so we should at least get some prize money!"
The Paul Nicholls-trained Benvolio showcased his ability to handle the mud when scoring at Haydock a fortnight ago, following up his December triumph at Newbury.
However, the master of Ditcheat does not expect his charge to trouble Oscar Whisky, who has a stone in hand on official ratings.
Nicholls said: "It is a massive step up in class against a horse like Oscar Whisky, but it's a small field and we like to support these races, so we thought we'd let him take his chance.
"If we're being realistic, Oscar Whisky looks a certainty, but in heavy ground in novice chases you never know what will happen, so we'll give it a go."
Completing the trio is Alan King's Manyriverstocross, who won on his chasing debut at Exeter before finishing last of six behind the Nicholls-trained Hinterland in Sandown's Henry VIII Novices' Chase in December.
King feels this weekend's contest is a good opportunity for the nine-year-old to get a crucial third outing over fences, which will allow him to qualify for handicaps.
"Manyriverstocross disappointed in the Henry VIII over the track in early December, but that was at the time that our horses started to go off the boil and, in any event, two miles was probably too sharp for him," King told his website.
"With the weather as it is, you are afraid to opt out of these good novice chases as if you wait for the next one that could be abandoned, and if Manyriverstocross is to qualify for any of the handicaps at Cheltenham, he has to have three runs."