sport

Jacob all set for Al Ferof

Paul Nicholls has confirmed Daryl Jacob will partner Al Ferof in the King George VI Chase with Noel Fehily set to ride Silviniaco Conti.

The trainer talked down the prospect of Ruby Walsh making another appearance in the William Hill sponsored Boxing Day race at Kempton aboard one of his runners, despite his phenomenal five victories with Kauto Star.

Nicholls finds his pair hard to split, with Al Ferof making a pleasing comeback from a year off the track by sauntering clear of French Opera in a match at Ascot.

Silviniaco Conti lost his Betfair Chase crown at Haydock but still finished a respectable third, and will be again taking on the pair that were ahead of him, Cue Card and Dynaste.

Nicholls said: "Daryl will definitely ride Al Ferof, that's what he went to Ascot for, to ride him, and I said to him a while back to do that and stick with him in the King George.

"Ruby is in a different job now. With the lads who own Silviniaco Conti, I could say to them Ruby is there if you want him but Noel rode him at Haydock with a view to riding him in the King George and possibly staying on him for the season so I suspect that if Noel is available he'll probably ride him."

Referring to Al Ferof, Nicholls said: "He had a school round the other day but that was just what we wanted. He's done a lot of work since then, schooled every week and is a lot fitter. He's in really good order."

And of Silviniaco Conti: "I don't know why but we're all finding it awfully hard to get them fit first-time-out this year.

"In the paddock at Haydock he looked too heavy really and he ran like that, travelled well from two out looking dangerous, blew up and then stayed on strongly.

"Joe (Tizzard) rode a brilliant race on Cue Card, he got a very soft lead, dictated the race from the front, very much like Ruby did the year before. It's a great front-runner's track but I can't see that happening in the King George.

"I think Cue Card has had a run, and Conti will definitely be a lot fitter. Last year he'd had a run in the Charlie Hall and some of those horses will improve from that run.

"It's a really interesting race and my view is that the winner will come from those four."

Tom Scudamore, jockey of the David Pipe-trained Dynaste, agreed Cue Card's prior appearance in the Haldon Gold Cup could have given him a vital edge.

The grey, who took last year's Feltham Novices' Chase over the course and distance, was tackling the major names for the first time and was ultimately beaten just four and a half lengths by Cue Card.

Scudamore said: "We set our stall out - Dynaste was as fit as David could get him, he looked fantastic and he'd had a very clear run, but I think there's a difference between that and actual race-hard fitness.

"With Cue Card, he had had obviously improved from the Haldon Gold Cup to the Betfair and we're hoping we'll be able to do the same, but hoping and actually doing it are different things."