Paul Nicholls tightened his stranglehold on the William Hill King George VI Chase when 15-8 favourite Silviniaco Conti provided him with a record ninth success in the Boxing Day feature at Kempton.
Following up his success in the 2013 renewal, Noel Fehily’s mount made every yard of the running to score by four and a half lengths and five from Dynaste and stablemate Al Ferof.
Nicholls and Fehily pulled off a carefully constructed plan to make best use of their charge’s assured stamina and improved concentration gained from the application of a pair of cheekpieces.
The eight-year-old was cut into 4-1 favouritism for the Gold Cup by William Hill.
To rapturous applause, the combination never looked like being reeled in, as Dynaste stayed on strongly for second.
Nicholls said: “He jumps and he gallops and we kept it simple. I knew he would gallop and stay and we decided to make it a proper test of stamina. The cheekpieces have helped him, he can be a bit lazy and they have really woken him up.”
Nicholls compared Silvianaco Conti to one of his previous King George victors, See More Business, who won the 1999 Gold Cup.
He said: “See More Business won the King George twice and went on to win a Gold Cup and I hope this fellow can go on and put the big one on his CV.
“When he jumped the last in front I was astounded he didn’t go on and win last season’s Gold Cup, but then after he ran at Aintree we found he had gastric ulcers.
“In fact there were various things we had to iron out and put right last year and the result is that he’s come back a stronger and better horse.
“Whether he runs again before Cheltenham is very much undecided, but all he does is stay and the Gold Cup is his number one target.
“Longer term I would love to see him come back here and give us the magic 10 King George wins. I can’t believe how lucky we’ve been to do so well in this race and I have to again give credit to my head lad Clifford Baker.”
Nicholls added that he would look to chart a course towards the Queen Mother Champion Chase with the Sam Twiston-Davies-ridden Al Ferof.
David Pipe was delighted with Dynaste but is undecided whether to aim the grey at the Gold Cup. He said: “He’d done plenty of work before the Betfair Chase, so I can’t say he was fitter today.
“It was encouraging to see him finish his race strongly, but we’ll have to take him home and see about the Gold Cup. To be honest, I’d rather win the Ryanair Chase than finish third in the Gold Cup.”
Champagne Fever and Cue Card both appeared to fizzle out through lack of stamina while the Philip Hobbs-traind duo of Menorah and Wishfull Thinking disappointed.