William Hill King George VI Chase
|Grade 1, Kempton Park
3m, Class 1
|Friday 26th December 2014|
Silviniaco Conti new favourite for King George VI Chase
After poor showings in the Betfair Chase, Cue Card and Dynaste have both drifted in the market
Nicholls admitted that he had been concerned by his charge's performances at the Cheltenham Festival and at Wetherby more recently in the Charlie Hall Chase, but Silviniaco Conti responded in fine style at Haydock.
And afterwards Nicholls was already looking forward to heading to Kempton Park on Boxing Day to try and win the King George for a record ninth time.
He said: "A few things didn't go to plan last season and I don't know what happened to him at the last in the Gold Cup, but when I saw he had his ears pricked I knew they wouldn't get past him.
"Lorraine Morris, who rides him every day at home, she said after we'd tried him in the cheekpieces that he went so well that there was no reason not to run him here.
"It will be Kempton next to try and win the King George again. Now we'll be a little bit easy on him and get him right for Kempton. He'll be fresh and well."
Injury ruled out Simonsig last season but Hills make him the 5-1 second favourite to gain plentiful compensation this term.
The 2013 Arkle winner missed last season due to a splint injury, but trainer Nicky Henderson said the eight-year-old grey will be aimed at the Grade Two Peterborough Chase on December 7.
He told the Daily Mail: "The Peterborough Chase is what we are looking at. It would be a nice race for him. We have kept him on the go. It was only a splint, you don't put them away for that. He wasn't doing anything serious but he was walking and trotting throughout last winter."
Champagne Fever won the Clonmel Oil Chase really well from Alderwood on November 13 and subsequently became antepost favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March.
Al Ferof made a terrific return from a long absence to win back-to-back renewals of the Amlin 1965 Chase at Ascot on November 22.
Despite having been off the track for 254 days, the Paul Nicholls-trained grey banished any notion of rustiness with a formidable effort under Ruby Walsh in the Grade Two contest over two miles and three furlongs.
Rajdhani Express forged clear and put in some spectacular leaps, but Al Ferof travelled with far greater fluency towards the penultimate fence and when Walsh went for the jugular aboard the 5-2 favourite it was soon over as he powered seven lengths clear.
Somersby overcame a mistake at the last to take second spot, but he was comprehensively beaten, while Wishfull Thinking, winner of the Old Roan Chase at Aintree, was never really a factor until he made marginal late gains.
Owner John Hales said: "It was a good race to win this year, great to see him come back. He was back in the condition he was when he won the Paddy Power Gold Cup (in 2012).
"Last year when he won this race, he was downhill afterwards and we couldn't understand why. He was third in the King George, but that wasn't Al Ferof. He was second in the Denman (formerly the Aon) Chase, 30 lengths behind the winner - and that wasn't Al Ferof.
"So Paul and his team got together and discovered he'd got grade four ulcers. Paul discovered that about 10 per cent of his horses had those ulcers and you ask the Americans, grade four ulcers will stop buses. Horses can't cope with that.
"So Paul treated him, we treated him at my daughter's farm and even when he came off grass after 10 or 12 weeks he still had signs of gastric problems, so we treated him and carried on treating him.
"Now you can see the difference. He was giving 11lb - that was impressive. That wasn't just a win - that was an impressive win.
"We will go for the King George and we will take it from there."
William Hill King George VI Chase (Grade 1)
£200,000 added, 4yo plus, 3m, Class 1
|Al Ferof (FR)||9||11-10||P F Nicholls|
|Annacotty (IRE)||6||11-10||M Keighley|
|Ballycasey (IRE)||7||11-10||W P Mullins|
|Ballynagour (IRE)||8||11-10||D Pipe|
|Bobs Worth (IRE)||9||11-10||N J Henderson|
|Boston Bob (IRE)||9||11-10||W P Mullins|
|Bury Parade (IRE)||8||11-10||P F Nicholls|
|Captain Chris (IRE)||10||11-10||P J Hobbs|
|Champagne Fever (IRE)||7||11-10||W P Mullins|
|Corrin Wood (IRE)||7||11-10||D McCain Jnr|
|Cue Card||8||11-10||C L Tizzard|
|Don Cossack (GER)||7||11-10||G Elliott|
|Double Ross (IRE)||8||11-10||N A Twiston-Davies|
|Dynaste (FR)||8||11-10||D Pipe|
|Eduard (IRE)||6||11-10||N G Richards|
|Fox Appeal (IRE)||7||11-10||Miss E C Lavelle|
|Harry Topper||7||11-10||K C Bailey|
|Holywell (IRE)||7||11-10||Jonjo O'Neill|
|Indian Castle (IRE)||6||11-10||Ian Williams|
|Johns Spirit (IRE)||7||11-10||Jonjo O'Neill|
|Kapga De Cerisy (FR)||6||11-10||Miss V Williams|
|Medermit (FR)||10||11-10||A King|
|Menorah (IRE)||9||11-10||P J Hobbs|
|Present View||6||11-10||Jamie Snowden|
|Road To Riches (IRE)||7||11-10||N Meade|
|Rolling Aces (IRE)||8||11-10||P F Nicholls|
|Silviniaco Conti (FR)||8||11-10||P F Nicholls|
|Simonsig||8||11-10||N J Henderson|
|Smad Place (FR)||7||11-10||A King|
|Somersby (IRE)||10||11-10||M R Channon|
|Taquin Du Seuil (FR)||7||11-10||Jonjo O'Neill|
|The Giant Bolster||9||11-10||D G Bridgwater|
|Theatre Guide (IRE)||7||11-10||C L Tizzard|
|Vukovar (FR)||5||11-10||H Fry|
|Wishfull Thinking||11||11-10||P J Hobbs|
|Wonderful Charm (FR)||6||11-10||P F Nicholls|
|Ma Filleule (FR)||6||11-3||N J Henderson|