TOP chaser Silviniaco Conti, the well-beaten Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite, dug deep when it mattered most to secure back-to-back victories in the Grade One Betfred Bowl – the day one highlight of Aintree’s Grand National meeting.
Ridden by the mercurial Noel Fehily, the nine-year-old led from start to finish with a foot perfect round of jumping – the only threat came after the last when the Tom Scudamore-ridden Ballynagour closed with every stride before going down by a head.
Victory for Silviniaco Conti completed the second leg of a double for champion trainer Paul Nicholls who won the Betfred Anniversary Juvenile Hurdle earlier wit chance All Yours.
Nicholls said: “We thought he went into Cheltenham in good form and for whatever reason Cheltenham just doesn’t suit him. It’s so good to get them back on song after a disappointing run, it reflects so well on the team.
“He’s an idle horse to be in front, but he always does enough. On a flat track like this, his jumping counts for so much and it paid off today. It was probably one of Noel’s best rides ever, I’d say.”
Looking ahead to future engagements Nicholls hinted that this ultra-consistent horse may miss Cheltenham next year and become a Grand National contender.
Nicholls added: “Who needs a Gold Cup when you can have days like this? It might be prudent to miss Cheltenham (next year), unless it was very good, fast ground. There’s the King George, the Betfair Chase. His jumping was spectacular today and he’s the sort of horse that could end up, like Neptune (Collonges), running in the National.”
On a day of top-class action, AP McCoy – riding at Aintree for the final time – won the Doom Bar Aintree Hurdle slightly fortuitously aboard Jessica Harrington’s Jezki after Arctic Fire crashed out at the final flight when holding a winning position.
Perhaps the best result of the day came when the Champion Hurdle second scrambled to his feet, and jockey Ruby Walsh walked away unscathed.
“My horse is bred to stay and he won over two and a half miles at Fairyhouse last year so whether we would have won had Arctic Fire stood up I don’t know, but it would have been close,” said McCoy who hit the turf later in the day from Ned Buntline. He appeared to walk away unscathed.