Conti retains his crown in the King George
Silviniaco Conti defended his King George VI crown at Kempton, making all under Noel Fehily to take the illustrious contest for the second year running, supplying trainer Paul Nicholls with his seventh win in the last nine years in the Boxing Day highlight. Kauto Star is a name synonymous with the King George but his former stable mate Silviniaco Conti is well on the way to joining him.
Connections were keen on the chances of their charge beforehand and Nicholls’ charge was sent off the well supported 15/8 favourite as a consequence. Fehily immediately kicked his mount to the front from the off and they would never be passed after putting in a brilliant jumping performance.
Irish raider Champagne Fever, attempting this trip for the first time, tracked the leader but was very keen in the hands of Ruby Walsh, something that would prove costly in the end. Coming into the home straight Silviniaco Conti began to edge clear from Willie Mullins’ charge but David Pipe’s Dynaste began to look like a danger as stayed on gamely from the second last.
The defending champ eventually began to come further and further clear in the end and had 4 1/2 to spare at the line from Dynaste, with stable mate Al Ferof also staying on gamely for 3rd.
The winner was cut to 4/1 for the Cheltenham Gold Cup in the aftermath, a race in which he finished fourth last season.
Trainer Nicholls said: “We’d not had the best of days today because of one thing or another, but he was very good.
“He’s a much improved horse this year and you never stop learning about him. I just think he’s in a much better place now, he’s a real true stayer and we can look better towards Cheltenham.
“He jumped well, he just gallops and stays, that was our plan – to make it a test, as he’s really fit.
“Whether he runs again before the Gold Cup, that is what we need to discuss.”
Fehily added: “I think he’s proved today what a very good horse he is, whatever the ground.
“He did it the hard way, he went a real good gallop and picked it up from the bend.
“The Betfair (Chase) was a very good performance and he backed it up today. He’s just a hell of a good horse.
“I gave him a little breather on the bend and I knew when I gave him a squeeze he would pick up and it would take a good one to go past me.”
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