Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : December 25th 2014 Contents A54
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Thursday, December 25, 2014
Silviniaco Conti heads a formidable
three-pronged assault on the festive feature
for the champion trainer, Paul Nicholls,
who has won the King George a record
Al Ferof, the mount of Sam Twiston-
Davies, finished a distant third in last year s
renewal, but Nicholls believes his charge
returns in much better health.
The flying grey certainly looked the part
on his return to action in the Amlin 1965
Chase at Ascot.
Nicholls said: "For whatever reason he
seems to be much better in himself this
year than he was last year, he had a few
"He wasn t beaten too far in the Ryanair
and I don t think he was at his best last
spring. I just thought he jumped left and
was a little bit lethargic. I don t think the
twice he s run at three miles he s been at
"On his Ascot run you d say he was a
different horse as he hadn t been in that
long, so he s bound to have improved. From
my point of view, that was his best ever
run over fences as the form has worked out.
"If it s not too soft he could be a different
proposition this year. He has got to prove
he stays three miles, but at his best he might
well do. He s by Dom Alco, so you d think
"Champagne Fever has always been a
horse I thought would run in a King George
one day. We watched him win last time and
I said he d run, but in a King George any
number have a chance."
Speaking in his Betfair column Nicholls
added: "Okay, it may not be saying that
much that I wouldn t swap Conti and Al
Ferof when they are the first- and third-
favourites for the race, but I couldn t be
happier with my pair, with Silviniaco Conti
the proven form horse and Al Ferof having
the potential to improve past him.
"Of course, you have to respect second
favourite Champagne Fever, who is actually
a very similar type to Al Ferof. They both
won well above-average Supremes (Novices
Hurdle) and have to fully prove their stamina
over this trip, and there is little doubting
how impressive Willie s (Mullins) horse was
at Clonmel last time.
"But you wouldn t say that he has the
most consistent profile and, to my mind,
he still has it prove in this top company
Nick Scholfield will partner the Nicholls-
trained outsider Wonderful Charm.
It is nine years since the Irish last claimed
King George glory with Tom Taaffe s dual
winner Kicking King and Champagne Fever
carries the hopes of a nation this time
A former winner of the Champion
Bumper and the Supreme Novices Hurdle,
the seven-year-old came within a whisker
of completing a Cheltenham Festival hat-
trick when touched off in last season s Arkle
He made a sparkling reappearance in the
Clonmel Oil Chase over two and a half miles
and trainer Willie Mullins, who won the
King George with the popular Florida Pearl
in 2001, is confident a step up to three miles
will not be a problem for his bold-jumping
and strong-travelling grey.
"Everything suggests he wants three miles
plus. Last year we took a chance two-mile
chasing as he d won the Supreme Novices
and he won all bar a quarter of an inch at
Cheltenham, but that s the reality," said
"We were delighted with how he ran at
Cheltenham, he just got chinned but looking
at his pedigree we ve always said he
shouldn t be able to do this.
"You can look at it that it was a surprise
doing what he was doing over two miles.
Sometimes it mightn t be the greatest thing
for a novice going three miles. Three-mile
novice chases are tough work and maybe
that will pay off this year.
"He won the (Champion) bumper as well.
We learned the hard way that bumper win-
ners at Cheltenham tend to want three miles.
"There was a graduation chase at Ascot
that would have suited him much better.
We are biting off a lot going to the King
George but with the rest of his career in
mind, it might be the right thing to do.
"If we re lucky enough to win he could
be favourite for the Gold Cup, if not we ll
have to readjust and try to approach the
Gold Cup from a different angle.
"I wouldn t be going there with as much
confidence as when we took Florida Pearl
as he d done more as a novice. He won the
RSA and then the Durkan on his comeback.
I probably didn t realise the task facing Flori-
da Pearl the first time."
Cue Card and Dynaste were joint-
favourites for last year s King George, having
finished first and second respectively at
The Colin Tizzard-trained Cue Card
looked the likely winner until hitting the
wall between the final two fences, while
David Pipe s Dynaste was disappointing in
Both horses are back for more, with Cue
Card in particular lining up with something
to prove, having failed to fire on his reap-
pearance at Exeter or when defending his
crown in the Betfair Chase.
Joe Tizzard, Cue Card s former jockey
and now assistant to his father, said: "Last
year he winged the second-last and then
literally within three or four strides on land-
ing, he just stopped underneath me.
"He went from absolutely running away
and me thinking I ve won the King George
to stopping and that s why we looked at his
wind and he had a little tweak during the
"He had a good blow after Haydock so
there s a chance he could come on again,
there ll be no excuses this time.
"We might ride him differently and just
drop him in rather than give everything else
a tow into the race.
"He s beaten them all before and there s
no reason he can t beat them again. The
string being in form gives us a bit more
"He ll definitely have his day again this
year. He ll get his chance in the King George
and then we ll make a plan after that. He
doesn t have to run in the Gold Cup
"There s the possibility of the Ascot Chase
and he ll be entered in the Gold Cup and
the Ryanair. A lot depends on Boxing Day,
but he hasn t lost any ability and he s in
good form at home."
Daryl Jacob is the man in the saddle
aboard Cue Card this season and admits
his mount will need to raise his game fol-
lowing a disappointing showing on Mersey-
"We were expecting to go there (Haydock)
and run a very big race and to be beaten
comfortably after three out, I suppose you
would be a little bit disappointed," said
"I think the horse has come on for the
run and probably the ground at Haydock
was a bit too soft for him, so we re hoping
for a little bit better ground at Kempton
and hopefully we ll see a few more lengths
Paul Nicholls believes Saphir Du Rheu can
show he can go right to the top with a big show
in the Kauto Star Novices Chase at Kempton on
The Ditcheat trainer is already dreaming of a tilt
at the Betfred Cheltenham Gold in 2016 with the
five-year-old, who got off the mark over fences
with as easy win at Exeter three weeks ago.
That performance erased the memory of an
inauspicious first effort over the bigger obstacles
when he fell at Newbury.
Now, Nicholls is hoping Saphir Du Rheu can
take the next step on the way to glory in this three-
mile Grade One, formerly known as the Feltham
and run in memory of Nigel Clark, for which all
seven confirmations stood their ground at the final
"I was amazed at the amount of people who
were crabbing him when he jumped six fences at
Newbury when he was just keen and exuberant,
got in a bit tight to one and lost Sam (Twiston-
Davies) but he jumped really well," said Nicholls.
"That was his first run over fences and on their
first run you want them to be a bit novicey over
their fences and not too brave. We schooled OK
and he jumped fantastic at Exeter."
He added: "Andy (Stewart, owner) asked me
what the plan was, the RSA? I said my plan is to
work back from the 2016 Gold Cup.
"I m probably aiming high and dreaming but
you ve got to have dreams in this game.
"The RSA is possible but I m not committing
him as we might miss Cheltenham and go to Ain-
tree, I want to do what is right by him and we ll
see what happens.
"Obviously he is only five, he s a big horse but
his future is rosy."
Nicholls has a second string to his bow in Virak,
who completed a hat-trick over fences when scoring
at Doncaster earlier this month.
Coneygree was the beneficiary of Saphir Du
Rheu s demise at Newbury when coming home a
ready winner from Dell Arca on what was his
fencing debut after he had been controversially
withdrawn at Plumpton.
"We need to take a chance like this to see how
good he is," said Bradstock s wife and assistant,
"It s a proper race but his form would be as good
as any. We re taking on Saphir Du Rheu so let s
hope we can outjump him again.
"Paul Nicholls is very keen on him so he must
be a very good horse.
"Coneygree is not a flashy work horse, so we
can t say we ve got the next Cheltenham Gold Cup
winner, but on the other hand he s never done
anything wrong on the racecourse.
"The day he got beat by The New One at Chel-
tenham it came after a freeze-up and he needs
plenty of work."
Martin Keighley took the spoils last year with
Annacotty and looks to Creepy repeating that suc-
Keighley is praying for decent ground at the
Sunbury venue after Creepy got stuck in the mud
at Cheltenham last time when he unseated Richard
Johnson in the race won by Kings Palace.
"It s vital he gets decent ground. Looking at the
race there s not a great deal between them on the
ratings, so we go there with a live chance," said
the Condicote trainer.
"Richard Johnson said at Cheltenham the ground
was so soft and deep there the horse just wasn t
happy on it.
"His previous run at Chepstow was very impres-
sive. He goes there really fresh and well and hoping
for a big run. Hopefully it will be nice ground and
that will suit him."
Carraig Mor s trainer Alan King would not be
disappointed if the heavens opened at Kempton.
Trainer sweet on
Nicholls holds trump
in festive feature
Silviniaco Conti, left, the flying grey looks the part.
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