The King George V1 Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day became a lot clearer on Saturday, especially for the Paul Nicholls stable, as last year’s winner and third, Silviniaco Conti and Al Ferof, enhanced their claims for the highlight of the Christmas period with victories at Haydock and Ascot respectively on a day of significant trials over both fences and hurdles.
Only third behind Cue Card in the 2013 Betfair Chase at Haydock Silviniaco Conti went on to gain revenge on that horse when outstaying Colin Tizzard’s charge at Kempton and although the winner of Aintree’s Betfred Bowl Chase at the Grand National meeting the gelding could manage only fourth place behind Lord Windermere in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and disappointed on his seasonal reappearance when well beaten behind Menorah in the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby earlier this month.
The son of Dom Alco justified his popularity in the betting market and proved that form all wrong by winning his second Betfair Chase at the Lanchashire venue when turning the tables on his Wetherby conqueror, the pair having the race between themselves from the second-last, pulling clear of Dynaste and Cue Card with the Jonjo O’Neill-trained strong fancy Taquin Du Seuil pulling up early in the straight after a poor round of jumping.
The eight-year-old now heads the King George betting at 5-1 on Boylesports with stablemate Al Ferof a best price 12-1 with Ladbrokes after the grey’s impressive seasonal debut when running out an easy winner of Ascot’s Amlin 1965 Chase under a confident ride from Ruby Walsh. With a big question mark now hanging over Cue Card it could be down to Simonsig, who missed all of last season, and potential Irish challenger Champagne Fever to prove their credentials for the race otherwise the Ditcheat handler may end up with a stranglehold on the 2014 renewal in just under five weeks time.