Conti continues Nicholls run
Silviniaco Conti continued his rapid progression up the ranks when outpointing Long Run in the Betfair Chase at Haydock.
Just as his Paul Nicholls-trained stablemate Kauto Star did 12 months ago, the six-year-old made all the running in the hands of Ruby Walsh.
Silviniaco Conti (7-4) jumped well throughout and had too many guns for Long Run, the 2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner.
Nicholls said: "He is a really decent horse. He's only six, he jumps, he stays - he jumped brilliantly today.
"We had a chat before the race and I said if they go quick get a lead, if they don't then bowl along. He jumps and gallops.
"There's no better man to ride in front than Ruby.
"I'm not going to rush him and I might go straight to the Gold Cup with him.
"He wants to be fresh and I'm not going to run him through the winter in the mud.
"He could be really interesting, come Cheltenham.
"I thought he didn't get the credit he deserved at Wetherby (winning Charlie Hall).
"Long Run is a very good horse but for a six-year-old it was a good performance."
Walsh said: "The Gold Cup looks the logical step. You win the Charlie Hall, you win the Betfair, it's the obvious target for him.
"He's a good stayer, he's not slow. I'd love to ride another Gold Cup winner.
"We discussed it a few days ago and decided to come here. We were all of the same opinion not to go to Kempton on Boxing Day.
"We felt the King George would be more of a speed race this year with two-mile and two-and-a-half milers in there."
Nicholls added: "Kauto won this as a six-year-old and went on to win the Gold Cup in the same season, and this horse is very, very exciting. He jumps, he has speed and he stays very well.
"I said coming into today that if he won he would go for the Gold Cup and that is the plan.
"You couldn't leave him in his box on Gold Cup day after that performance.
"He definitely won't run in the King George, I don't think Kempton is his track.
"He won't run anywhere over Christmas, and he might even go straight to Cheltenham as he does go very well fresh. We could give him a run in something like the Aon but I certainly wouldn't be worried about going straight there with him."