Conti can deliver in style

I ride in all seven races at Newbury today, but the undoubted highlight promises to be Silviniaco Conti (pictured) in the Denman Chase.

Conti can deliver in style

I’m delighted Long Run doesn’t run in the contest. It’s not that I have any great fear of taking him on, it’s just that Silviniaco could do with not having a hard race, as he completes his preparations for the Gold Cup.

My horse was given a good break by Paul Nicholls after beating Long Run by two and a half lengths at Haydock in November.

He has done nothing wrong in his last three outings and is one I just like a lot. I belive he’ll win this and will be looking to him to produce an impressive display as well.

I start aboard a horse I know little enough about — Lac Fontana — in a novice hurdle. What I do know is that he’s ex-French and was second at Saint-Cloud in June.

This looks very competitive to boot and running him here, to my way of thinking, is something of a shot in the dark.

Rangitoto is next in a three miles plus handicap hurdle. Truth to tell, he has been a bit disappointing and I’m just hoping for the best.

Simonsig misses the Grade 2 chase and that’s obviously going to make it a lot easier for the rest of us. I had a choice between Edgardo Sol and Shooters Wood and went with the latter. He’s won two at Cheltenham, wears his heart on his sleeve and likes to race on the pace.

Shooters Wood also loves to travel left-handed, but the bottom line is that he has to improve to be capable of winning a contest such as this.

The Betfair Hurdle — I team up with Pearl Swan — is going take some winning and luck in running will be vital. Pearl Swan hasn’t run over flights since falling at the last, closing down the leaders at the time, in the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham in March.

Fitness, however, won’t be an issue, having finished second for me on the all-weather at Kempton 15 days ago.

My worry is that Pearl Swan will lack the tactical speed which is so vital in a race such as this and we will certainly need the cards to fall just right for us.

Unioniste is one of my best rides, in the three-mile novice chase. He won easily at Cheltenham last time, will love the trip and, right now, I regard him as a dark horse for the RSA Chase at the festival.

I end a busy day on Vago Collonges, in what is traditionally a hot bumper. Already a winner of two bumpers in France, how he fits into the scheme of things I simply don’t know.

Tomorrow it’s Naas and three rides for Willie Mullins. Mikael d’Haguenet won easily for me at Thurles last time and, if his jumping stands up, can go in again in a novice chase.

I’m on another of Willie’s French-imports, Upsie, in the two miles and three maiden hurdle. She won at Saint-Cloud in November and works well enough, but I’m not exactly sure what to expect.

And then it’s Turban, who continues to be a puzzle, in a beginners chase. He has always worked and schooled great at home and that is still very much the case. But he just cannot deliver on the track and, quite frankly, has my head wrecked!

I will be taking a keen interest on proceedings at Leopardstown today, obviously focusing very much on Willie’s charges.

It is not easy deciding between Flemenstar and Sir Des Champs — two very good horses — in the Hennessy. Gun to my head, I’ll side with Sir Des Champs, just on the basis that he’s the more stout stayer.

Willie runs two in the Grade 1 hurdle for juveniles and Paul Townend has come down on the side of Diakali. This had to be a desperately difficult decision, because there is nothing between them. Mind you, I do think Paul is best positioned to make the choice. I’ve only ridden Blood Cotil — I think he’s more than decent — but Paul has partnered both.

I expect Champagne Fever to get the show back on the road in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle, after finishing a distant third to Rule The World and Minsk at Naas.

I rode him that day and, in retrospect, believe we were beaten before the start. I thought he was relaxed going down, but now think he was just lifeless.

He didn’t scope right after the race, but seems to be full of himself at home and I expect the real Champagne Fever to arrive today.

It has been well documented that Willie wasn’t happy with Boston Bob for a while, following his less than impressive success first time over fences at Navan.

But he seems to have turned the corner at home and can land what looks a less than vintage Moriarty Novice Chase.

Picture: Getty Images

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