Conti likely to take direct route to Gold Cup

Silviniaco Conti is likely to head straight for the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup in March.

Conti likely to take direct route to Gold Cup

Paul Nicholls won his ninth King George as Silviniaco Conti successfully defended his crown in the St Stephen’s Day highlight and the champion trainer now has his heart set on winning a first Gold Cup with his star staying chaser after mishaps in the race for the past two seasons.

In 2013 he was still going well when he fell for the only time in his career at the third last and last March he jumped the final fence in front before fading into fourth.

“He used to take a week or two to get over his races but he cantered yesterday and is fresh and well this morning,” Nicholls said yesterday.

“It will feel like a long 10 weeks now but what if you run somewhere and it all goes wrong? My gut feeling is we’ll go straight there.

“I think there are lots of reasons (for his improvement). We’ve sorted a few things out physically, he’s a year older, the cheek pieces help him and he’s a much better horse this year.

“Last year he was finishing weakly because he was hurting, now he’s not hurting and he realises that, which gives him more confidence.

“I expect him and Sam Winner will go straight to the Gold Cup, they seem the ideal pair to train together, we’ll team them up as pals as they both want plenty of graft.

“I need to confirm it with the owners and nothing is set in stone but that’s my gut feeling.”

Connections of Bobs Worth are putting his disappointing defence of his crown in the Lexus Chase purely down to the testing conditions at Leopardstown.

Last year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup hero was sent off favourite to repeat last year’s heroics, but was one of the first horses to feel the pinch.

Nicky Henderson’s nine-year-old plugged on in the straight to finish eighth of nine runners and part-owner Malcolm Kimmins is keen to put a line through the race and move on.

Kimmins said: “The ground was horrendous and he just couldn’t deal with it. There was no point destroying him on that sort of ground.

“He looked very well before the race and Barry (Geraghty) was very pleased with the way he felt. He just didn’t like the ground.

“When he actually got on the better ground in the straight, it made a big difference and he wasn’t beaten that far. It was a disappointing trip for his supporters, but he lives to fight another day.”

Kimmins was non-committal when asked whether Bobs Worth would run again between now and the Gold Cup.

“I think we’ll just see how he is. The Gold Cup has always been his major aim and we’re still on track for that,” said the owner.

Alan King, meanwhile, has identified the Argento Chase at Cheltenham next month for Smad Place.

Last season’s narrow RSA Chase runner-up was aimed at the Hennessy first time out this season, but the grey faded into fifth, beaten 20 lengths by Many Clouds, on what was his seasonal reappearance.

A rematch with Oliver Sherwood’s Hennessy winner looks to be on the cards, with the Cheltenham event on January 24 also mooted for Many Clouds, where Prestbury Park specialist The Giant Bolster is likely to be lying in wait.

“We have still not given up hope that Smad Place might be a Gold Cup horse, and the plan is to take him back to Cheltenham at the end of January for the Argento Chase,” King said.

“The Hennessy took a fair bit out of him and we have always stressed he needs his races spaced out, so the break will do him good.”

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