Horse Racing: Conti can defend his crown

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Silviniaco Conti can successfully defend his crown in what looks a Betfair Chase to savour at Haydock.

It is hard to fault the seven-year-old’s record over fences and his defeat of Long Run in this race 12 months again was a solid effort, as he made all the running under a canny Ruby Walsh before staying on strongly to claim a first top-level success.

In doing so he maintained the monopoly of the Haydock showpiece by Paul Nicholls, who sent out the great Kauto Star to win the three-mile contest four times.

Silviniaco Conti went from Haydock to Newbury last year before turning up for the Gold Cup, where his supporters were left with a definite feeling of what might have been as he crashed out three from home when still going as well as anything.

Bobs Worth took full advantage, of course, and his presence this weekend, together with that of Long Run, means this is a genuine dress rehearsal for Cheltenham, even at this early stage.

It also means it is an attractive betting affair, and while it is very difficult to crab Bobs Worth, just at the prices the Nicholls runner makes most appeal.

It is hard to oppose Gullinbursti in the Betfair Cash Out “Fixed Brush” Handicap Hurdle. With £80,000 in the prize fund it is not surprising that the recent list of honour is dominated by class such as Dynaste, Grands Crus and Diamond Harry, all future players over fences.

Such is the nature of the obstacles, which are like mini fences, the race is ideally suited to progressive chasing types and in-form Emma Lavelle’s charge fits the bill, despite his trainer being a little disgruntled at the highly-regarded seven-year-old finding his hurdles mark rising for winning over fences at Market Rasen.

However, given he was reportedly a sick horse last year, like many of Lavelle’s string, he offers the promise of much more to come this term and it is unlikely we have seen the best of him.