Paul Nicholls speaks about Silviniaco Conti's chances ahead of the Cheltenham Festival Gold Cup
PAUL NICHOLLS can see a bit of Kauto Star and Denman in Silviniaco Conti – and he believes his new stable star can emulate them both by winning the Gold Cup tomorrow.
With no Kauto Star or Denman lining up in the showpiece race at the Cheltenham Festival for the first time since 2006, the Olveston-born trainer has placed his faith in Silviniaco Conti, who is third favourite behind Bobs Worth and Sir Des Champs.
The seven-year-old has won his last four races, including the Betfair Chase at Haydock where he beat 2011 Gold Cup champion Long Run and his last outing in the Betfair Denman Chase at Newbury.
Nicholls’ last Gold Cup triumph came in 2009 when Kauto Star became the first horse to regain the title by reversing the previous year’s one-two with stable-mate Denman in one of the most exciting duels in racing history.
The pair raced against each other in two more Gold Cups before Denman retired in 2011, while Kauto Star had one more shot at the title last year only to be pulled up in what turned out to be his last race.
However, Nicholls can see similarities between Silviniaco Conti and his two former champions and has a lot of confidence in the seven-year-old.
“He’s a mix of the two,” Nicholls told the Gazette.
“He’s very laid back like Denman and Kauto Star also won the Betfair Chase before the Gold Cup so he’s got the same sort of profile without being as flashy. He might end up like that if he keeps winning.
“I think any Gold Cup is hard to win but Silviniaco Conti has won four from four races this season and he’s definitely in with a shout.”
Silviniaco Conti will be ridden by Nicholls’ stable jockey Ruby Walsh, who was on board Kauto Star for his two triumphs.
He might not be the favourite with the bookmakers, but the race looks wide open this year and Nicholls insists it would be foolish to write him off.
He said: “There’s nothing in it. He’s got a nice record and has done nothing wrong.
“He’s doing the right things, he keeps on improving and we think he’s got a great chance.
Nicholls’ other big hope this week, Zarkandar, could only finish fourth in the Stan James Champion Hurdle on Tuesday as Hurricaine Fly regained his title.