Counting on Conti to develop into a Gold Cup contender

The performance of Silviniaco Conti in the Charlie Hall at Wetherby today is going to be particularly important as far as I’m concerned.

The days of Denman and Kauto Star are over, so my focus now is on discovering the next chaser who might be capable of going to the top.

Paul Nicholls has three possibilities, headed by Silviniaco Conti and the others are Al Ferof and Cristal Bonus.

Willie Mullins, realistically, has one in Sir Des Champs, but he’s owned by Gigginstown House Stud and is Davy Russell’s ride.

Essentially, what I’m saying is that if Silviniaco flops then my personal cupboard is going to look a trifle bare.

I’m reasonably certain, however, that he is going to produce a decent effort. He did disappoint one day at Ascot last season, but Paul’s horses seemed out of form at the time. He rounded off his campaign with a fine display at Aintree in April. I rode him that day and we won by 13 lengths.

Obviously, Silviniaco is going to have to step up on what he’s done before to win this, but he’s a young horse and I’m very hopeful.

My only other ride is on the somewhat enigmatic Tidal Bay in the three miles plus Grade 2 over flights. He ended last season when winning by 15 lengths over fences at Sandown, also in April.

The trip will suit and Paul thinks he’s in good form, but is hardly getting any better as an 11-year-old. We all know Tidal Bay has a big engine, but it really is a case of what side of the bed he gets out of this morning.

I’m off to Cork tomorrow, starting on Dara Tango for Tony Martin in a three mile hurdle. You cannot win a race of this nature unless you stay and I’m not convinced Dara Tango will. On top of that it looks to be a really hot race, so I’ll be taking my time and trying to grab as much prize money as I can.

Bundle Of Fun attempts to complete a hat-trick in the valuable Cork Grand National over three and a half miles.

I won on him at Downpatrick and then deserted the horse at Gowran Park and he went in again for Paul Townend.

He struggled for a long time to win a race, but is now on a roll and the better the surface the better his prospects.

I partner The Crafty Butcher for Michael Hourigan in a maiden hurdle. I rode him to finish seventh at Listowel, when he jumped well, but just got tired.

He seemed to improve quite nicely in a bumper at Naas next time and has to have a life, in what appears to be a modest contest.

I know the old maxim has it that you should back the outsider of three, but I’m hoping it will be a case of the outsider of four in the Grade 3 novice chase.

I’m on Laganbank and you’d have to say he’s up against it taking on Baily Green, Sea Of Thunder and Tofino Bay. It’s a nice pot and I’d love to be surprised.

Tony Martin keeps telling me Mullaghwillin Boy isn’t a bad horse, but if you back him in a handicap hurdle it will be on Tony’s recommendation, not mine.

I could have went north to Down Royal today to ride Kauto Stone and Cristal Bonus and will be more than interested to see how they get on.

I don’t know if either of them is good enough and fancy Sizing Europe in the three mile Grade 1 and Bog Warrior in the two and a half mile Grade 2.

I have to end by talking about two people: the late Fergie Sutherland and the recently retired Ken Whelan. The first time I ever went to Cheltenham was as a 16-year-old in 1996 when Fergie landed the Gold Cup with Imperial Call.

I was blown away by the reception the horse got and it was some achievement to win a Gold Cup by such a small stable. I always thought Fergie was a lovely man.

Ken Whelan was forced to retire this week and he and I go back a long way. I regard him as a good friend.

When I was 17 we were in Enda Bolger’s together. Ken was always a hard-working jockey, but far more important is that he is a proper person.

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