Silviniaco Conti winning the Betfair Chase at Haydock last yearPICTURE: John Grossick (racingpost.com/photos)
Nicholls big guns primed for return to action
PAUL NICHOLLS does not have chasing heavyweights Kauto Star and Denman to rely on anymore, but could still plunder some of the sport's biggest prizes with Al Ferof and Silviniaco Conti, who are primed to return to action soon.
Al Ferof, owned by John Hales, has not been seen since winning last year's Paddy Power Gold Cup after injuring a tendon in December.
He is set to run in the Amlin 1965 Chase at Ascot a week on Saturday and has the William Hill King George VI Chase as a major target if all goes well in the Grade 2, which Nicholls won with the mighty Master Minded in 2010 and 2011.
"He was at home with the Hales family through the summer and they did a great job with him," Nicholls said on Monday.
"He had a racecourse gallop yesterday and went very nicely. He's set to make his [seasonal] debut at Ascot and hopefully it'll be a stepping stone to the King George."
Nicholls' stable jockey Daryl Jacob has a tricky decision to make with the classy Silviniaco Conti set to return in the Betfair Chase at Haydock on the same day as the Amlin Chase.
He won the Betfair Chase 12 months ago and was going nicely when falling in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March.
Nicholls hopes there is more to come from the seven-year-old, who is owned by Chris Giles and Potensis Limited.
Speaking to Sky Sports News, the trainer added: "He did really well last year and was travelling well in the Gold Cup when he fell.
"He's only seven and is entitled to improve this year. His work's been good and he's ready to go to Haydock."
Al Ferof is a general 12-1 for the King George, while Silviniaco Conti is 3-1 with Paddy Power for the Betfair Chase. They are 20-1 and 9-1 for the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup.