Silviniaco Conti will be stronger after Gold Cup fall, says Paul Nicholls
Paul Nicholls expects Silviniaco Conti to come back stronger after the Ditcheat trainer's hopes of regaining the Gold Cup at the Cheltenham Festival ended with a fall three fences from home.
Pre-race favourite Bob's Worth produced a devastating late sprint to secure victory for rival handler Nicky Henderson, whose win will go a long way in wrestling the trainers' championship crown from Nicholls.
Silviniaco Conti had travelled well throughout and jockey Rugby Walsh had positioned him just behind long-time leader Long Run and Sir Des Champs.
Having won on all three of his other starts this season, however, Silviniaco Conti could not maintain that form and his fall allowed Bob's Worth to storm to the front before beating Sir Des Champs and stablemate Long Run on the charge up the hill to the finish line.
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"He travelled ever so well and he was jumping but he can only get better," said Nicholls.
"He's a young horse and has astounded me how strong he's been this year.
"He was in the right place and had the horses in front covered. He was going nicely and, with a bit of luck, may have gone close but who knows?
"You know what I'm like. I'm spitting blood for ten seconds [after a defeat] but then you move on.
"That's racing, you have ups and downs. He's a young horse, he's seven and will be back to fight another day. He's absolutely fine, that's the most important thing.
"Next year will be a different year, we'll come back again. It's onwards and upwards, and we'll look forward to Aintree and the Grand National."
Nicholls' horses struggled throughout the week at Cheltenham, with the champion trainer recording just one victory at the four-day meet.
Salubrious triumphed in Friday's Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle – the penultimate race of the Festival.
"It's a bit unfortunate, everything has sort of gone wrong in the last ten days but that's just the way it is," said Nicholls.
"Some horses don't go on the ground and some do, some aren't good enough and some are unlucky. That's just the nature of how it goes.
"We've had a winner so it's not been a bad Cheltenham, we've just been a bit unlucky.
"It's very, very hard. There can only be six or seven winners a day – it's tough.
"Several run well and several not so well but if you have a winner at Cheltenham it's a good Cheltenham, so we are well chuffed."
In the absence of retired chasers Kauto Star and Denman, as well as injured Big Buck's, Nicholls failed to win one of the Festival's four feature races for the first time since 2006.
The closest he came was in the World Hurdle on Thursday but Celestial Halo could not quite follow in the footsteps of four-time winner Big Buck's and finished runner-up to Solwhit.
Meanwhile, Join Together will head Nicholls' bid to claim a second successive Grand National at Aintree on Saturday, April 6, following this week's scratchings deadline for the world-famous steeplechase.
The eight-year-old is a 20-1 shot to follow in the footsteps of Neptune Collonges, who recorded a maiden victory in the marathon race for the champion trainer 12 months ago.
Nicholls also has What A Friend and Harry The Viking entered, both of which are owned by Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
Turn to page 75 for more Cheltenham Festival reaction.