By Simon Jackson.
Silviniaco Conti is the clear favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup after his emphatic victory in the William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day.
The success was the eight-year-old’s second in the feature race of the year at Kempton following his win in this race last year and Paul Nicholls’ charge is now best-priced at 4-1, but as short as 3-1, for the Gold Cup on March 13.
Silviniaco Conti led from the outset and was always travelling well for jockey Noel Fehily. There appeared to be plenty of challengers as the field of 10 runners entered the home straight.
Yet the eventual winner had plenty in reserve. He quickened well to draw away from the last fence to score by four and a half-lengths from Dynaste, with stablemate Al Ferof five lengths further back in third.
“He really looked the part as he made every yard of the running, jumping faultlessly, before pulling clear of Dynaste on the flat,” said Nicholls. “You have to say this was an improved performance on his victory a year ago. Al Ferof put the icing on the cake by staying on to claim third prize for the second year in succession.
“The King George has always been one of my favourite races. We’ve now won it nine times, which is a bit of a record and I’d like to think Silviniaco could be back for the treble in 12 months’ time.
“He is a real stayer and gallops all day so the big hope now is that he can show his true colours in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham in March. My gut feeling is that he will not run before then,” he said on his website.
“Al Ferof, however, has bags of speed so I will be doing my best to persuade his owner John Hales to let me give him an entry in the Queen Mother Champion Chase and the Ryanair at the Festival.”
Read ‘Horse Talk with Simon Jackson’ at London24 for the latest horse racing news.