Read our interview with champion trainer Paul Nicholls after My Racing’s reporter travelled to Manor House Inn to talk all things horses including his runners at Haydock this weekend as well as Silviniaco Conti’s progress.
Not every day is a bed of roses in this job with poor weather, non runners, and the odd racecard abandonment, but then we get the good times, and an invitation to attend the Paul Nicholls yard in Somerset yesterday afternoon makes all the bad days so much more worthwhile. After a long drive (M23/M25, or hell as it is also known) we were provided coffee at the Manor House Inn before a pleasant walk after the rain had stopped to walk in to the yard of the Champion trainer in fairly bright sunshine.
The concept of the morning visit was a brief chat about the well-being of his contenders for the Betfair Festival at Haydock this weekend, and after gathering in the courtyard of the number one stable in the land, leading hurdler Irving was brought out for us to look at, and he did look well to my inexperienced eyes. Although engaged on Saturday in the Betfair Price Rush Hurdle at 1.50pm on Saturday I got the feeling he was an unlikely starter and may well wait for the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle the week after, so my advice might be to wait for “non runner no bet” offers before even considering parting with your cash. As for the horse, he is fit and well and Paul seemed very happy with him, insisting that although he won on his return at Wincanton he had improved considerably since, and given soft ground which he clearly relishes, he will take some stopping though they have finally admitted he is not a Champion Hurdle horse so don’t go backing him for the Cheltenham crown.
Naturally the star of the show was Silviniaco Conti who was paraded for us ahead of another attempt on the Betfair Chase, which he won in 2012 and 2014 – so no problems with the course and distance then! Now a nine year old, he has had a race this season over hurdles at Kempton when runner up to Brother Tedd, a race that has apparently put him spot on, and his trainer seemed as happy as could be expected. Again, they seem to have finally decided he isn’t at his best around Cheltenham but jumps stays and loves soft ground, all of which fit the plan ideally ahead of Haydock on Saturday where he seems sure to put up a solid performance. With 40 millimetres of rain apparently expected between now and the weekend, the going is expected to be heavy by Saturday but as he “jumps and stays” (Paul’s words not mine), that seems unlikely to be an inconvenience to him and will be a negative for the likes of Cue Card which can only increase his chances, and despite the value of the race, as things stand he does look very difficult to oppose.
Away from the cameras and the voice recorders, we did manage to get a few more minor soundbites that may or may not be of interested, starting with Champion Chaser Dodging Bullets. Although fine and well he will not be ready in time for the Tingle Creek so no antepost bets there please, but he will be ready for the New Year and to defend his Cheltenham title with Vibrato Valtat most likely to replace him at Sandown for the yard. Ptit Zig is on target for Ascot Saturday but I failed to notice too much enthusiasm about his chances to be honest, while Alcala is considered well handicapped at the moment (rated 126 yet was upsides the 146 rated Penglai Pavilion on Saturday), but seems unlikely to get in to the 2.25pm at Haydock on Saturday as number 25. If he does get in (stranger things have happened), then we may be sorely tempted in to a little each way off his current rating!