Silviniaco Conti to start off season at Down Royal
Silviniaco Conti: will be having first start in Ireland at Down Royal
PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos) Silviniaco Conti to start off season at Down Royal By Ben Newton 8:02PM 4 SEP 2016
PAUL NICHOLLS' solitary Grade 1 win over fences last season came courtesy of Silviniaco Conti in the Ascot Chase. While the ten-year-old's best days may be behind him, he is still capable of high-class form and will bid for an eighth Grade 1 win over fences in the Champion Chase at Down Royal on November 5.
The champion trainer, who on Sunday held his annual owners' day, said: "Apart from when we had him right for Ascot, last season was an absolute nightmare. But he's looking a lot better physically than he did this time last year, so we'll get him spot-on for Down Royal and then form a plan for the rest of the season."
With Saphir Du Rheu failing to live up to the lofty hopes entertained for him this time last year and former champion chaser Dodging Bullets looking to have lost a bit of his speed, the spotlight is on the up-and-coming chasers and Nicholls is hopeful Le Mercurey could improve in his second season.
He said of the two-time Grade 2 winner: "His first target is the Grade 2 chase at Down Royal on November 5, where the flat track should suit. He was getting a bit lazy last season – he virtually pulled himself up in front in the Reynoldstown – but we stuck the blinkers on at Ayr and he won impressively."
Saphir Du Rheu plans
Regarding Spahir Du Rheu, Nicholls said: "After his Carlisle win last autumn I thought he had the chasing world at his feet, but things didn't go right after that.
"He was stopping abruptly in his races, so we gave him a soft-palate operation, and I hope a nice summer break will have helped. All I can say is I'll be disappointed if last season is as good as he is."
Dodging Bullets was not without his problems either, being forced to sit out the first half of the season with a splint.
"He ran no race in defence of his two-mile chase crown but his Celebration Chase third was more encouraging," said the trainer. "However, the speed he once had doesn't seem to be there any more, so we'll look to step him up in trip. There are no firm plans but I can see him getting a King George entry."
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