paul Nicholls proved yet again he has no peers when it comes to preparing horses for the big races as Silviniaco Conti landed a second Betfair Chase at Haydock on Saturday.
Winner of the Grade One prize in 2012, he was third to Cue Card 12 months ago on his first outing of the season.
To make sure he had the eight-year-old cherry-ripe for the first Grade One chase in England this term, Nicholls ran his charge in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby and some were disappointed he could only finish fifth behind Menorah.
Charlie Hall winner Menorah, for the bang-in-form combination of Philip Hobbs and Richard Johnson, gave Silviniaco Conti most to think about on Merseyside and appeared to be travelling best at the third-last.
But when stamina came into play, Noel Fehily guided Silviniaco Conti (100-30) to a two-length win, with last year’s runner-up Dynaste third, a further eight lengths away.
The disappointment of the race was the 3-1 favourite Cue Card, who tried to put the pace to the race but he looked flat in the home straight and could only finish fourth.
Jonjo O’Neill’s Taquin Du Seuil was also expected to put up a big challenge, but he threw any chance away with some sloppy jumping and was pulled up. Fehily said: “It’s another masterclass training performance by Paul Nicholls.
“He’s a hell of a good horse. He’s an unbelievable stayer.”
The first four home seem likely to lock horns again at Kempton in the William Hill King George VI Chase on Boxing Day.
Nicholls, who was claiming his sixth win in the race, said: “The cheekpieces sharpened him up completely. When he’s right, he’s probably the best (in the country). That (King George) is where he’ll go next.“There was no point in him being 100 per cent at Wetherby, it served its purpose but he got left at the third-last. It will be Kempton next to try and win the King George again.”
The New One cemented his position as a strong Champion Hurdle contender with a crisp performance in the inaugural running of the Betfair Price Rush Hurdle.
Jockey Sam Twiston-Davies said: “It was very good. He probably wouldn’t want the ground as soft as it is, but his jumping was very good.
“You couldn’t get a much bigger thrill than with a horse like this.
“Hopefully he didn’t have too hard a race.
“A bit better ground, the world’s his oyster.”
Lizzie Kelly also gave Aubusson a perfect ride to win the Betfair “This Is Play” “Fixed Brush” Handicap Hurdle while at Ascot ante-post Champion Hurdle favourite Faugheen toyed with his rivals in the Coral Hurdle at Ascot.
Jockey Ruby Walsh said: “That was mission accomplished. He showed a terrific turn of foot. This was just about November. He wasn’t going to be 125 per cent fit. Once I got the fencing down the hill, he jumped much better form there. He has ticked the first box, he has plenty of big questions to answer, but the dream is alive.”