Silviniaco Conti at full stretch as he heads to Denman Chase victoryPICTURE: Mark Cranham (racingpost.com/photos)
Silviniaco advertises Cup claims with Newbury win
Report: Newbury, Saturday
Betfair Denman Chase (Grade 2) 3m, 5yo+
SILVINIACO CONTI left no doubt that he is a prime contender for the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup next month with a convincing victory in testing conditions from The Giant Bolster.
The 8-11 favourite surged clear from the final fence for a handsome success that led Ladbrokes to trim his Gold Cup odds to 4-1 (from 7), second only to 3-1 favourite Bobs Worth.
"It's on to Cheltenham, now," said winning trainer Paul Nicholls, who has won the Denman Chase with both Kauto Star and the eponymous star after whom the race is named.
Eight went to post for the £45,000 race and for the majority of the 3m contest French import Mail De Bievre galloped in splendid isolation up front, displaying some prodigious jumping under Paddy Brennan on his first start for 509 days.
Brennan slowly increased the pace down the back straight where only The Giant Bolster, Silviniaco Conti and Menorah could keep in touch. At the cross fence Mail De Bievre still held sway but at three out he was joined in the air by Silviniaco Conti and The Giant Bolster and from that point quickly retreated.
Ruby Walsh was by now looking ever more confident on the red-hot favourite and hard as Tom Scudamore pushed The Giant Bolster there was only a growing gap to Silviniaco Conti.
The manner of his victory – adding to wins this season in the Charlie Hall Chase and Betfair Chase - delighted Nicholls, who suggested after the race that there was something left to work on before the Gold Cup on March 15.
Nicholls added: "Proper job. I purposely left a lot to work on. He's not the quickest, but he's a true stayer, a sound jumper and he's improving, which is just what you want. He's had one target all along, and that's March.
"He's done everything right this year, winning the Betfair, the Charlie Hall and now this, and he's an improving horse."
Scudamore, who rode the The Giant Bolster into second place in last year's Gold Cup, said afterwards: "He'll definitely come on for that. He took a blow at the last ditch. It was a good run and he goes to the Gold Cup with another realistic chance."
David Bridgwater, who trains The Giant Bolster, said: "I'm chuffed to bits with him because the winner is very, very good. Tom gets on brilliantly with him."