By Simon Jackson
Paul Nicholls believes that Silviniaco Conti has a great chance of making amends for his fall in the 2013 Cheltenham Gold Cup and has a ‘leading chance’ in this year’s contest.
Nicholls spoke of his hopes for the Cheltenham Festival on Thursday as he paraded his leading contenders at his Manor Farm Stables at Ditcheat in Somerset at a media day organised by Cheltenham Racecourse.
The seven-time champion trainer bagged his eighth King George VI Chase on Boxing Day with Silviniaco Conti, who fell in last year’s Gold Cup when travelling well, and is now best priced at 3-1 for Cheltenham’s showpiece race on March 14.
“Silviniaco is one of the favourites for the Gold Cup and I thought he was travelling extremely well in last year’s race. I think he was going to finish first or second but who knows?” said Nicholls.
“We have done things a bit differently this season. Last time our aim was to win the Betfair Chase so he went to the Charlie Hall first and this time his aim was the King George so we went to the Betfair first and he improved for the run.
“His stamina kicked in when he won the King George and I think he has a leading chance in the Gold Cup. He is the right age and has strengthened up. They are all dangers in the race but Bobs Worth is probably the one to beat, he’s unbeaten at Cheltenham.
“I’d like to give him a racecourse gallop somewhere in the next 10 days and if the ground stays like this then we may take him to Kempton to work on the all-weather.”
Nicholls also revealed that Silviniaco Conti could be joined by stablemate Rocky Creek, who holds a Grand National entry, but may be better suited by the Cheltenham race.
“Rocky Creek has an entry in the National and Gold Cup and I suspect he’ll run at Cheltenham – he’s not thrown in at the weights at Aintree,” Nicholls continued.
“He ran a good race in the Hennessy but then had colic afterwards. We then had to rush him a bit and he got tired in the Argento Chase, he probably wasn’t as fit as he should have been. He’ll have a racecourse gallop somewhere to get his fitness up.
“I think he’s capable of running a big race in the Gold Cup, I’m not saying he’ll win but he could easily get in the frame. He’s a decent staying chaser and he’ll get the trip. He won over three miles in the Reynoldstown Chase last year.”