Conti claims Denman Chase at Newbury
Updated: Saturday, 09 Feb 2013 18:06
Silviniaco Conti heads to the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup unbeaten this season after passing a fairly gruelling examination in the Denman Chase at Newbury.
Paul Nicholls' main challenger for next month's elite prize eventually beat last year's Gold Cup runner-up The Giant Bolster by seven lengths despite carrying 4lb more than his rival, although Ruby Walsh had to ask his mount a few questions on trying ground after hanging on to him for as long as possible.
Also a winner of the Charlie Hall and Betfair Chases this term, 8-11 favourite Silviniaco Conti is expected to improve from his first outing since late November, but The Giant Bolster's trainer David Bridgwater was bullish about turning the tables in five weeks' time.
"I said he wouldn't be fully wound up today, you wouldn't expect him to be," said Nicholls.
"It was just what we wanted. He has always been a stayer and a sound jumper. We have only had one target for him and that's in March. He's a young, improving horse. Let him do the talking."
The sponsors offer 6-1 for the big one, and Walsh said: "If he improves as much from the Charlie Hall as he did to the Betfair Chase he will run a big race in the Gold Cup. He's a gem."
A vanquished Bridgwater still retains maximum faith in his charge, saying: "Cheltenham is a different track and this is the one they want to be worried about. I can guarantee I have missed more work than the other horse."
Tom George's French recruit Mail De Bievre caught the eye, charging along in front on his first start for over 500 days and only fading to fifth in the closing stages.
"He's very exuberant and Paddy (Brennan) said with hindsight we should have run him over two miles," said George. "He's in the Ryanair, it's something to think about, but we're just pleased to have him back in one piece."
"It was just what we wanted. He has always been a stayer and a sound jumper. We have only had one target for him and that's in March." - Trainer Paul Nicholls on Silviniaco Conti
The Betfair Super Saturday Chase produced a thrilling finish, if scant evidence to unsettle Sprinter Sacre at the head of the market for the Queen Mother Champion Chase.
Wishfull Thinking (4-1), who has shown haphazard form throughout his career, was galvanised by Richard Johnson to retrieve the Grade Two from the clutches of French Opera.
Trainer Philip Hobbs said: "It was a good job it was two-miles-one and not two miles, as he kept going and going.
"It was worrying how quickly he stopped at Kempton last time, it might have been something to do with his wind, but he did that well today.
"I suppose he will go for the Champion Chase, as Menorah will hopefully go for the Ryanair and there's a good prize for finishing second to Sprinter Sacre."
The Not Afraid Partnership, who own Gold Cup favourite Bobs Worth, clearly have another smart one on their books as 5-4 favourite Chatterbox, who even beat his stablemate and effortless Betfair Hurdle winner My Tent Or Yours on his previous start, made it three from three so far in the Visit betfair.com/racingoffers Novices' Hurdle.
"He doesn't do anything spectacular at home, but he's very good when he goes on a racecourse," said trainer Nicky Henderson.
"He's so like Bobs Worth it's untrue, they have the same attitude."
Asked if Chatterbox would fulfil either of his Cheltenham entries, the trainer said: "I suppose he's in there. I think he probably wants another year but he hasn't done a lot wrong."
Mattie Batchelor was handed a 10-day ban for failing to take all reasonable permissible measures on Ramona Chase.
Master Of The Sea (8-1) will have risen over 38lb in the weights as he made it four on the bounce in the Betfair. Don't Settle For Less Handicap Hurdle.
Trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies said: "He needed to run here so I could make sure he gets into one of the Festival handicaps.
"I'd think he'll run in one of the two miles-five races."
Nicholls added another when Unioniste (4-5 favourite), last seen winning the big December handicap at Cheltenham, emerged ahead of Henderson's Hadrian's Approach in a desperate struggle for the Better Prices On Betfair Mobile Novices' Chase.
"He idles and I knew he'd need a stronger pace and bigger field," said Nicholls. "If there's a race for him at Cheltenham, the RSA would probably be the one. I don't think he'd be quick enough for the Jewson."