Silviniaco Conti to swerve Ascot

Silviniaco Conti will not defend his Betfair Ascot Chase title later this month, with Paul Nicholls pointing towards Aintree as his next possible target.

Silviniaco Conti could head to Aintree next

The 11-year-old ended a long losing streak when lifting the two-mile-five-furlong event last season before going on to tackle the Grand National, in which he was pulled up.

Silviniaco Conti has yet to hit the mark in four starts this term, finishing third in the King George and fourth behind the ill-fated Many Clouds at Cheltenham on his two most recent outings.

He is not entered for the Grand National, but Nicholls will be looking to Merseyside for Silviniaco Conti, who has twice won the Betfred Bowl at the Grand National meeting.

Nicholls said: "Silviniaco Conti is not going make it (Ascot) as he's not quite right.

"He is all right, though, and he will run again this season. We will possibly aim him at Aintree as he needs a bit of decent ground.

"Next weekend will come too quick and he needs a month or two to get his condition on.

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"He definitely wont go to Cheltenham, he will go to Aintree, if anywhere."

Nicholls could still have a runner in the Ascot Chase, with Vibrato Valtat being lined up for the contest.

"He'd obviously be an outsider but I can just see the race cutting up," said Nicholls.

"He's always been running well in all those good races. He had a breathing operation after his run before Christmas and then came back at Kempton and ran very, very well.

"He always runs well and always picks up good prize money and he's in no man's land. I could run him on Saturday at Warwick in a handicap where he'd have 11-12 but you're balancing running against Grade One horses where you're badly in at the weights or running in handicaps off top-weight.

"He's done well, a tough genuine horse who always gives us a bit of fun and he's worth running in those big races."

On the same card, improving novice chaser Arpege D'Alene is expected to take his chance in the Reynoldstown Chase, a contest Nicholls last won with Rocky Creek four years ago.

He confirmed: "The idea with (Arpege D'Alene) is to go to Ascot for the Reynoldstown and then he goes to the four-miler at the Cheltenham Festival. The way he stays four miles will suit him really, really well.

"My view with him has always been to go to Reynoldstown as a prep for Cheltenham, then Cheltenham and the Scottish National – almost do what we did with Vicente did last year.

"One thing that this horse will do is gallop and stay for ever and he's been crying out for a real trip. That's unless it's very, very soft as he doesn't want it bottomless but the forecast now is for 10 days or so of better weather which would be handy.

"Cheltenham-wise, the four-miler has been the target from the start and Will Biddick will ride."

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