An emotional Paul Nicholls heaped praise on his stable star Silviniaco Conti after he registered a seventh career success at Grade 1 level by running away with the Betfair Ascot Chase, on an afternoon of damp weather but warm spirits.
The nine-time Champion Trainer has, by his own admission, suffered a frustrating season so far, with several of his horses yet to find their best form. Today’s hero had himself suffered three defeats already this term but looked like he was right back to a level approaching his best after coming home a gaping 20 lengths clear of Dynaste.
“To have a horse win seven Grade 1s after Kauto [Star] and co retired has been great for the stable and he’s special to us,” Nicholls said afterwards. “We now need to find a few more like him!”
The trainer also stated that Silviniaco would bypass this year’s Cheltenham Festival and head to Aintree, with a tilt at the Grand National “more than likely.”
Anyone present at Ascot today or watching on TV will be in no doubt as to the chance he’d hold there.
Elsewhere on the card there was a notable double for Nicholls’ big rival, Nicky Henderson, as Vyto Du Roc landed the Grade 2 Sodexo Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase and Different Gravey overcame a long lay-off and top weight to hammer his opposition in the day’s big handicap hurdle.
It was a hugely eye-catching performance by a horse who has had his fair share of injury problems but now looks like one to follow closely in the coming months.
The day’s other highly impressive winner was Sausalito Sunrise, who triumphed in the Appletiser 50 Year Celebration Chase for trainer Philip Hobbs and Tom O’Brien, surely booking his place at Cheltenham next month.
Hobbs completed a double of his own when Tearsofclewbay won the closing bumper, while there were also victories for Yala Enki and the veteran hurdler Bangkok Pete.