Silviniaco Conti showed trainer Paul Nicholls there is life after Kauto Star with an excellent front-running performance in the Betfair Chase at Haydock on Saturday.
The legendary chaser was given a standing ovation by the public on Merseyside as he led the field down to the start for the Grade One feature andm while Silviniaco Conti has a way to go to match his exploits, he could have done no more under Ruby Walsh.
The 7-4 chance, so impressive in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby, jumped superbly at the head of affairs and kept up the gallop in the home straight to defeat 2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Long Run by two and a half lengths.
Coral make him the 5-1 joint-favourite with Irish hope Sir Des Champs for the Gold Cup in March, and the champion trainer may not run his new star before then. Somerset-based Nicholls said: “I said if he won we’d go for the Gold Cup and that is the plan. You couldn’t leave him in his box on Gold Cup day after that performance.
“I’m not going to rush him and I might go straight to the Gold Cup with him.
“He could be really interesting, come Cheltenham.”
Connections of Long Run were not too deflated following the defeat. Trainer Nicky Henderson said: “We didn’t want to get into a battle.
“He had a desperately hard race last year and he’s finished off his race nicely. Hopefully it’s onwards and upwards and the King George is where we’ll go.”
Trustan Times put up a fine weight-carrying performance to win the Betfair, Don’t Settle For Less “Fixed Brush” Handicap Hurdle.
Tim Easterby’s six-year-old defied the steadier of 11st 12lb in gritty fashion as he held the persistent challenge of Holywell by two and three-quarter lengths over the final two flights.
“I thought the handicapper had overdone him after Wetherby, but I was wrong and he was right,” said Easterby. “I bought him out of a point-to-point and it’s just taken a bit of time.
“We ran him over fences last season and he was just getting into the bottom of one or two of them, so we decided to switch back to hurdles for a while. He could be a top chaser one day but we will stick to this for now. I don’t know where he will go now as this has been the plan.”
Trustan Times had a 25-1 quote for the Ladbrokes World Hurdle from the sponsors. Quartz De Thaix (5-1) also gave weight to all his rivals as he continued his resurgence in the Better Prices On Betfair Mobile Handicap Chase under Liam Treadwell.
The Venetia Williams-trained eight-year-old endured a torrid season last term but won as he liked on his Bangor comeback and followed up with a six-length verdict over Universal Soldier in the hands Liam Treadwell.
Treadwell said: “He is entered in the Welsh National and is tailor-made for a race like that.”
In the other long-distance event, Monsieur Cadou (12-1) battled on dourly to land the Read Nicholls And McCain Exclusively On Betfair Handicap Chase for Tom George and Paddy Brennan.
Brian Ellison’s Yesyoucan (14-1) just lasted home in a thrilling finish to the Try Racing Fixed Odds On Betfair Handicap Hurdle.
The heavily-backed Black Thunder came from a mile back but Danny Cook’s mount held on by a neck.
Walsh picked up a two-day ban (December 9 and 10) for his use of the whip on Black Thunder but the dates of suspension are likely to be changed due to a Grade One in Ireland.
Alan King’s Balder Succes (1-2) got off the mark for the campaign with a smooth display in the Betfair Commits £40 Million To British Racing Hurdle under Wayne Hutchinson to beat Hollow Tree by six lengths.
There was a turn-up in the Follow At Betfair Racing On Twitter Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race as Donald McCain’s odds-on favourite Baltimoar was thumped 11 lengths by Lucinda Russell’s newcomer Ballyben (6-1).