Photo credit: “Silviniaco Conti” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Carine06
Silviniaco Conti is among the eye-catching runners set to line up in the Grand National at Aintree early next month.
After the frenzy of Cheltenham and its long build up, Aintree’s three-day National meeting creeps up on the sporting calendar.
There should be no debate that Aintree boasts some equally high-class racing in comparison with Cheltenham and the meeting should prove it once again.
There is also little room for debate when it comes to the fact that ten-year-old Silviniaco Conti is a very capable staying chaser and something of an Aintree specialist.
A haul of seven Grade One wins over fences is testament to the star quality he possesses.
He will therefore represent a continuing change in the make up of the field when he lines up in the Grand National at Aintree on April 9.
Champion trainer Paul Nicholls has been touting Silviniaco Conti as a potential contender for this race for a long time and, with his charge now confirmed alongside the likes of last year’s winner, Many Clouds, he is ready to put the theory into practice when available at 10/1.
An apparent dislike for the undulations of Cheltenham has perhaps cast some unfair doubt on the overall ability of Silviniaco Conti.
No wins from four starts at jumps racing’s most heralded amphitheatre proved enough to convince Nicholls that Cheltenham and Conti were not good bedfellows.
Whatever it is about Prestbury Park that makes it unique, Silviniaco Conti just didn’t relish the challenge.
Photo credit: “Aintree Entrance – Home Of The Grand Nat” (CC BY 2.0) by Paolo Camera
Put him on a flat track like Kempton or Aintree on the other hand and you find a completely different performer.
His two wins in Kempton’s showpiece King George VI Chase are well documented but, arguably, he is even better around the Merseyside track.
Silviniaco Conti’s record at Aintree reads 1-3-1-1 and the latter three races were all Grade Ones.
More impressive still is the fact that those three appearances in the Aintree Bowl have all come on the back of the disappointment of Cheltenham just weeks before.
This horse has routinely picked himself up from the disappointment of March in order to roar back in April. This time around, he faces no such challenge.
Having conceded defeat to Cheltenham, Silviniaco Conti goes to the Grand National on the back of a 20-length romp in the Ascot Chase in February that proved his well-being after a disappointing run at Kempton over Christmas.
Nicholls attributed the turnaround to a wind operation, having felt his horse was choking slightly in the King George where he was pulled up.
With that problem behind him, Silviniaco Conti could be a tantalising proposition for the Grand National.
He must prove he can handle the National fences, but his jumping has always been spellbinding and it would come as a big surprise were that to be his Aintree undoing.
The marathon trip is of course the unknown factor. He can at least tick the box of having won multiple top-level races over three-miles and the fact his esteemed trainer has always thought the Grand National would suit Silviniaco Conti bodes well.
Nicholls’ sole Grand National win came with Neptune Collonges. Neptune Collonges was another horse that struggled with Cheltenham (one win from nine).
There were enough encouraging signs for the Nicholls team at the Cheltenham Festival to suggest they could be in for a strong end to what has, at times, been a slow season for the powerful Ditcheat yard.
Perhaps Silviniaco Conti can rubber-stamp their campaign with Aintree success.