Silviniaco Conti claims the Betfair Chase
Updated: Saturday, 24 Nov 2012 23:11
Silviniaco Conti proved himself a worthy heir to incredible Kauto Star as he produced a spring-heeled display to win the Betfair Chase at Haydock.
Champion trainer Paul Nicholls announced last month the legendary steeplechaser had run the last race of a breathtaking career that included five King Georges, a brace of Cheltenham Gold Cups and four wins in this Grade One event on Merseyside.
While it is fanciful to believe Silviniaco Conti can reach those heights, the six-year-old leapt to second-favouritism for the Gold Cup with most firms under a typically well judged front-running ride from Ruby Walsh, to leave Nicholls beaming from ear to ear.
The runners were led down to the start by the 12-year-old Kauto Star and his faithful head lad Clifford Baker, receiving great applause from the Haydock crowd.
It was clear from when the tapes dropped no-one was overly keen to make the running, so Walsh let his mount set what was a fairly sedate gallop for the first circuit.
The 7-4 chance injected a deal of pace into the race heading down the back straight for the second time, however, and some fast and accurate jumping kept him in charge.
Long Run, the 2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner who was left chasing Kauto Star's shadow 12 months ago, travelled with more zest on this occasion and was right on the leader's tail turning in.
But Charlie Hall Chase hero Silviniaco Conti continued to pour it on in front and galloped all the way to the line after the final fence to beat the favourite by two and a half lengths.
The Giant Bolster just held on to third spot from Weird Al.
"He definitely won't run in the King George, I don't think Kempton is his track" - Paul Nicholls, trainer of Silviniaco Conti
Nicholls said: "He is a really decent horse. He's only six, he jumps, he stays - he jumped brilliantly today.
"We had a chat before the race and I said if they go quick get a lead, if they don't then bowl along. He jumps and gallops.
"There's no better man to ride in front than Ruby."
Nicholls revealed he may not even run again between now and next March.
"I said if he won today we'd go for the Gold Cup and that is the plan. You couldn't leave him in his box on Gold Cup day after that performance," he said.
"I'm not going to rush him and I might go straight to the Gold Cup with him.
"He wants to be fresh and I'm not going to run him through the winter in the mud.
"He definitely won't run in the King George, I don't think Kempton is his track. He won't run anywhere over Christmas.
"We could give him a run in something like the Aon but I certainly wouldn't be worried about going straight there with him.
"He could be really interesting, come Cheltenham.
"I thought he didn't get the credit he deserved at Wetherby (winning Charlie Hall).
"Long Run is a very good horse but for a six-year-old it was a good performance (today).
"Kauto won this as a six-year-old and went on to win the Gold Cup in the same season, and this horse is very, very exciting. He jumps, he has speed and he stays very well.
"Being by Dom Alco he can only improve and it's fantastic to have a young horse like this in the yard.
"I had tears in my eyes watching Kauto go in front of the stands today.
"He and the other old boys have moved on and it's so exciting to see the younger horses come through. It really is a dream come true."
Walsh, who partnered Kauto Star to both of his Gold Cup victories, is hopeful this horse can give him the hat-trick.
Walsh said: "The Gold Cup looks the logical step. You win the Charlie Hall, you win the Betfair, it's the obvious target for him.
"He's a good stayer, he's not slow. I'd love to ride another Gold Cup winner."
Despite coming off second best to the Nicholls-Walsh team yet again, Long Run was not disgraced in finishing second and trainer Nicky Henderson was far from despondent.
Speaking from Ascot, he said: "I haven't spoken to Robert or Sam (Waley-Cohen, owner and rider), but the boys seem very happy. We didn't want to get into a battle today.
"He had a desperately hard race last year and he's finished off his race nicely today.
"Hopefully it's onwards and upwards and the King George is where we'll go."
The rider said: "He's run his race but we've been beaten fair and square. The ground was a bit soft for him but it was the same for all the others and we've got no excuses."
Waley Cohen senior said: "It's always disappointing to be beaten when you're favourite and maybe the pace of the race was to blame.
"His jumping was a bit sticky to begin with, but when the pace picked up so did his jumping.
"He should come on for the run and will now head straight for the King George."
The Giant Bolster's trainer, David Bridgwater, said: "He's bound to come on for that and it was a good run.
"There's the King George and the Lexus at Leopardstown so we'll see what happens."