Silviniaco Conti going straight for Gold Cup

Silviniaco Conti is virtually certain to go straight for the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup following his victory in the William Hill King George VI Chase.

While his trainer Paul Nicholls is unlikely to give his Kempton hero a prep run before the Festival, stablemate Al Ferof, who was third, is set to take in the Denman Chase at Newbury next month.

“Silviniaco Conti will almost certainly go straight to the Gold Cup,” the Ditcheat trainer said in his blog on betfair.com.

“Al Ferof will take in the Denman Chase at Newbury next month before we decide whether to go down the Ryanair or Gold Cup route with him.”

Nicholls gave updates on many of his stable stars, starting with Unioniste who is unlikely to head for the Gold Cup after being unplaced in the Lexus Chase behind Bobs Worth.

“Even though he ran a career-best on ratings, the Lexus told us that Unioniste is probably not good enough for the Gold Cup just yet – you have to remember that he is still only a six-year-old – but he will get an entry just in case the ground comes up bottomless,” said Nicholls.

“My immediate target for him is a conditions race over three and a quarter miles at Kelso next month, with the 2015 Grand National further down the line!

“Hennessy runner-up Rocky Creek is fine after his little setback after Newbury and goes for the Argento at Cheltenham on January 25, and he will get an entry for the Gold Cup as well as the Grand National.

“I would think that our Welsh National third Tidal Bay – what a star he is, by the way – will now go straight to Aintree.

“Chepstow runner-up Hawkes Point will go to the Haydock Grand National Trial in February en route to Aintree, while There’s No Panic will also have a Grand National entry but we will wait for better ground for his next run.

“The legend that is Big Buck’s is being aimed at the Cleeve Hurdle but I would possibly like to get one more racecourse gallop into him before then.”

Willie Mullins meanwhile insists he has “absolutely no thoughts” on where Annie Power will make her next competitive appearance following her brilliant display at Cheltenham on Wednesday.

The six-year-old mare secured her ninth career victory from as many starts with another comprehensive defeat of the talented Zarkandar in the two-and-a-half-mile Dornan Engineering Hurdle, opening debate about what her March targets should be.

She is prominent in ante-posts lists for both the Champion Hurdle over two miles and the three-mile World Hurdle, while the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle, dominated by stablemate Quevega, is another option.

The man who will have the final call, however, is in no rush to commit to anything.

He said: “She has come out of the race in good order. I’m very pleased with her.

“We haven’t made any plans for her as yet. I have absolutely no thoughts on it.”

Annie Power would likely meet her incredible stable companion Hurricane Fly if she were to run in the Champion Hurdle, a horse who secured his 18th Grade One haul in the Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown last weekend.

Mullins already has magnificent five-times winner Quevega lined up for another tilt at the Mares’ Hurdle, so Paddy Power unsurprisingly expect Annie Power to instead step up in trip.

Paddy Power himself said: “The temptation must be there for Willie Mullins to run her in the Champion Hurdle, but with Hurricane Fly looking as good if not better than ever, we think she’ll probably line up in the longer World Hurdle.”

* What race will Annie Power run in at the 2014 Cheltenham Festival? Paddy Power: 2-5 World Hurdle, 9-4 Champion Hurdle, 8 Mares’ Hurdle.

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