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Straight to Cheltenham for Gold Cup contender Conti

Silviniaco Conti is likely to head straight for the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup in March.

Paul Nicholls won his ninth King George as Silviniaco Conti successfully defended his crown in the St Stephen's Day highlight and the champion trainer now has his heart set on winning a first Gold Cup with his star staying chaser after mishaps in the race for the past two seasons.

In 2013, he was still going well when he fell for the only time in his career at the third last and last March he jumped the final fence in front before fading into fourth.

"He used to take a week or two to get over his races but he cantered yesterday and is fresh and well this morning," Nicholls said.

"It will feel like a long 10 weeks now but what if you run somewhere and it all goes wrong? My gut feeling is we'll go straight there.

"I think there are lots of reasons (for his improvement). We've sorted a few things out physically, he's a year older, the cheek pieces help him and he's a much better horse this year.

"Last year he was finishing weakly because he was hurting, now he's not hurting and he realises that, which gives him more confidence.

"I expect him and Sam Winner will go straight to the Gold Cup, they seem the ideal pair to train together, we'll team them up as pals as they both want plenty of graft.

"I need to confirm it with the owners and nothing is set in stone but that's my gut feeling."