Silviniaco Conti targets Cheltenham Gold Cup after passing Denman Chase test
Silviniaco Conti and Sir Des Champs cleared the picture for the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup when booking their places in next month’s blue riband with excellent wins on Saturday.
The former goes to the Betfred-sponsored showpiece unbeaten this season after passing his examination in the Denman Chase at Newbury, while Sir Des Champs dented Flemenstar’s dreams when taking the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown.
Silviniaco Conti (8-11 favourite) defeated last year’s Gold Cup runner-up The Giant Bolster by seven lengths despite carrying 4lb more than his rival, although Ruby Walsh had to ask his mount a few questions on trying ground after hanging on to him for as long as possible.
“I said he wouldn’t be fully wound up today, you wouldn’t expect him to be,” said Ditcheat trainer Paul Nicholls.
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“We have only had one target for him and that’s in March. He’s a young, improving horse. Let him do the talking.”
Over in Ireland, Sir Des Champs (11-8) came good to cement his place at the top table when giving Ireland’s champion jockey Davy Russell and owner Gigginstown House Stud their first success in the Hennessy.
Andrew Lynch waited on Flemenstar until after the last but he could not quicken to go past the Willie Mullins-trained Sir Des Champs who prevailed by a length and three-quarters.
Mullins said: “He jumped well, did it well and it looks like there’s more improvement.
“Every year he improves in the spring.
“He’s been to Cheltenham twice and he loves the place.
“He loves that hill, so I’m hoping that he can show what he did the last two years, that he can keep improving coming into March.”
Mullins enjoyed a four-timer, adding two other Grade Ones, with Boston Bob and Champagne Fever, as well as scoring with Tennis Cap, giving Paul Townend a treble, and all are Cheltenham bound.
Champagne Fever returned to form when making all the running in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle and is on course for the Supreme Novices’.
Last season’s Cheltenham Champion Bumper winner had run a listless race last time out, but this time the 2-1 favourite brushed aside Bright New Dawn to score by a length and three-quarters.