Turf Talk: Nicholls eyes World Hurdle as Grand National preparation for Silviniaco Conti

Trainer Paul Nicholls with Silviniaco Conti at Manor Farm Stables in Somerset.
Trainer Paul Nicholls with Silviniaco Conti at Manor Farm Stables in Somerset.
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Paul Nicholls has raised the possibility of Silviniaco Conti running in the World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival with a number of options under consideration in the spring.

The 10-year-old is in the frame for a possible crack at the Crabbie’s Grand National at Aintree, although the Betfred Bowl Chase at that meeting is also under consideration along with a trip to the Punchestown Festival.

Silviniaco Conti won the King George in both 2013 and 2014 but was pulled up in last month’s renewal of that race with Nicholls feeling the opposition were just too good. The Ditcheat handler also revealed Silviniaco Conti has undergone a minor breathing operation since that outing.

“I think (the Grand National) is a good plan,” said Nicholls. “He won two King Georges and you look at the form and think, well, probably Cue Card wasn’t at his best (in 2013) and Dynaste (in 2014) maybe wasn’t at his best and this year was a very, very hot King George.

“We’ve had problems with him this year with sarcoids, it hasn’t probably been an easy year and I think he’s a little bit soft now and when he got headed at Kempton, he just thought ‘I’ll look after myself’. He’s had his soft palate cauterised since he ran the other day.

“I haven’t even put him in the Gold Cup and he will actually have an entry in the World Hurdle which might be a prep for the National. The two probable races for him in the spring would be the Aintree race he’s won for the last two years and Punchestown.

“Whether he runs in the National this year or in 12 months time, I don’t know.”

*Harry Whittington is feeling confident that Bigmartre can handle the step up in class for Saturday’s Sky Bet Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle at Haydock. Whittington said: “He’s a course and distance winner and will absolutely love the ground. Bring it on.”


SOUTHWELL: 12.40 Fujin, 1.10 Honeymoon Cocktail (treble), 1.45 CARBUTT’S RIDGE (NAP), 2.20 Kaisan, 2.55 Moonlight Venture, 3.30 Billy Bond (next best), 4.05 Final.

CHELMSFORD: 5.10 Clive Clifton, 5.40 Bushel, 6.10 Bromyard, 6.40 Phantom Flipper, 7.10 Mambo Fever, 7.40 Camdora, 8.10 Hamis Al Bin.

WINCANTON: 1.35 Present Man, 2.10 Elenika, 2.45 Shockingtimes, 3.20 Mystery Code, 3.55 Kassis, 4.25 Querry Horse.

LUDLOW: 12.50 Mystic Sky, 1.20 Kalane, 1.55 Altesse De Guye, 2.30 Benenden, 3.05 Baden, 3.40 Topthorn, 4.15 Mac Gregory.