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Cheltenham: Paul Nicholls places faith in Silviniaco Conti

By Robert Jones

Paul Nicholls retains every faith in Silviniaco Conti as he tries to make it third time lucky in the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup, the feature event on the final day of the Festival.

The nine-year-old fell three fences from home when still travelling well on his first attempt in 2013, while he looked a likely winner jumping the final obstacle in front last year before wandering across the track and eventually finishing fourth.

He arrives as favourite this time after a fine campaign that has seen him win two of his three starts, including a second King George VI Chase on his most recent outing on Boxing Day.

Silviniaco Conti galloped his rivals into submission that day, which Nicholls believes is indicative of his charge's renewed zest.

"He made the running and galloped on really strongly," said the Ditcheat handler.

"Something he was not doing last year was finishing his races.

"We found out after Aintree last year he was suffering badly with gastric ulcers and we are on top of that now. The cheekpieces have also got him jumping sharper.

"You have to stay to win a King George. I've got no doubt about him staying whatsoever."

Even apart from the AP McCoy factor, there is plenty of Ulster interest in today's Gold Cup with Road To Riches - winner of the Down Royal Festival feature, the JNwine.com Champion Chase in November - among those expected to challenge Silviniaco.

Ulster-bred Bobs Worth, the 2013 Gold Cup winner, is another contender.

There is Northern Ireland interest in the Foxhunters too, Crossgar-based Colin McBratney running Carsonstown Boy, while Stuart Crawford - situated near Larne - has Muirhead.

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