Silviniaco Conti: bidding to do what neither Denman nor Kauto Star could and win the Betfred Bowl Chase for champion trainer Paul NichollsPICTURE: John Grossick (racingpost.com/photos)
Silviniaco Conti the one to beat - Nicholls
WHEN it comes to the Betfred Bowl it has invariably been wise to expect the unexpected. Few people know that better than Paul Nicholls, but with Silviniaco Conti at his disposal the champion trainer once again has what on paper looks to be a tremendous chance of landing the £150,000 chase.
An impressive victory for the ante-post odds-on favourite would provide some compensation to his connections after last season's runaway Aintree winner fell when still cruising at the third-last fence in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
The three excellent winter wins that had been garnered before Cheltenham will add to the camp's confidence, but connections will remember that in three of the last five runnings Nicholls' former champions Kauto Star and Denman failed to justify red-hot favouritism.
Nicholls said: "It's always difficult to be confident at Aintree with a horse who was prepared for Cheltenham, but in his favour is that he didn't get into a hard race in the Gold Cup and there's also a long time to wait until the Betfair Chase, so it's well worth running here.
"He was travelling well when he fell at Cheltenham and his form earlier in the season also makes him the one to beat. We gave him an easy ten days after his fall but I'm very happy with him and we know from last year he likes the track."
The three day meeting gets underway with the Grade 1 Juvenile Hurdle, in which Nicholls runs Irish Saint, while the two other Grade 1s on what is a fantastic card are the Aintree Hurdle and the Manifesto Novices' Chase.
The going at Aintree was described by clerk of the course Andrew Tulloch as good, good to soft in places on the Midmay and hurdles tracks, and good to soft, good in places on the National course.
In the Grand National both Quinz and Poker De Sivola were scratched from the race meaning Major Malarkey and Soll are now guaranteed a run in the John Smith's-sponsored event.