Trainer Paul Nicholls attempts to add to his already impressive haul of six Betfair Chases tomorrow as he sends Silviniaco Conti north to Haydock himself seeking second successive victory and third overall.
Nicholls saddled the great Kauto Star to an impressive four wins in this race, and often uses it as a springboard for the King George Chase over the Christmas period. Fresh from a pipe opener over hurdles, Nicholls believes he has Silviniaco Conti spot on for this race.
“He has not missed a beat since Kempton and his stamina will be very important this weekend.”
Silviniaco Conti, currently a short price favourite, faces just four rivals in a small but select field that will provide enough competition to ensure this is not a walkover for the reigning champion.
The first three home from the Charlie Hall Chase re-oppose and a re joined by fifth placed Holywell too. The latter recieved a 4lb swing in the weights last time out, however tomorrow meets the field off level weights leaving him with some ground to make up on ground that is unlikely to suit.
Dynaste has been placed in many of the top staying events over the previous years, including this event last year and the King George chase. He only posts one win from his last nine races, although that came at the Cheltenham festival in the Ryanair Chase over a shorter distance.
Ballynagour is another runner for David Pipe and similarly to Dynaste is also a festival winner although at handicap level. The son of Shantou has had his injury problems in the past, but remains a lightly raced horse with plenty of ability as he displayed in his short head defeat to Silviniaco Conti in the Grade 1 Betfred Bowl at Aintree.
Pipe’s stable are yet to pick up form and after a dismal Open Meeting still only boast one winner from their last thirty runners.
The main danger to favourite Silviniaco Conti comes in the shape of old foe Cue Card who made a successful reapparence when beating the rest of this field in the Charlie Hall Chase.
Cue Card has been gunned down by Silviniaco Conti on three ocassions before, twice in the King George and once in this contest. However Cue Card looked a rejuvenated character after a stop-start last season in which he had his injury problems. Tizzard’s stable star, a previous victor of this race, is a strong contender for Betfair glory.
Paul Nicholls also aims recent Elite Hurdle winner Iriving at the Betfair Hurdle, in its second ever running. Last year it was claimed by The New One at long odds on.
Narrow favourite Irving faces no easy task as Triumph Hurdle second Top Notch makes his seasonal bow for a Nicky Henderson team that is slowly coming together this year. He does, however, have to concede race fitness to his rival.
The line up is completed by Melodic Rendezvous and Fou Et Sage. The former finished behind Irving at Wincanton and meets his old rival on 3lb worse off terms, although the ground is far more in his favour. Fou Et Sage represents Dan Skelton and is the outsider of the field on his second start for the stable, but connections are assured prize money as sponsor Betfair would have offered it to the first eight home in a initiative to increase field sizes.
The timing of this race is not helped by the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle next weekend.