Sunday 17 December 2017

Conti ready as Cooper targets Royal return

Tom Scudamore riding Thistlecrack on their way to winning the Novices' Steeplechase at Chepstow
Tom Scudamore riding Thistlecrack on their way to winning the Novices' Steeplechase at Chepstow

Johnny Ward

Silviniaco Contin is confirmed for Down Royal's Grade One Chase on Saturday week and with a bit of luck he may be joined by Bryan Cooper and Don Poli.

Paul Nicholls is targeting the big meet, at which he has enjoyed incredible success over the past decade, with both his star staying chaser and the second-season Le Mercurey. Silviniaco Conti could face Don Poli, with Cooper eyeing a return earlier than expected.

Gigginstown's retained rider broke his right arm on October 8, an injury which can keep a jockey sidelined for six weeks. However, Cooper is hoping to return exactly four weeks later, which was also deemed possible at the time of his fall.

He said yesterday: "It's touch and go but I visited the Santry Sports Injury Clinic this morning and I'll return there next Tuesday for an X-ray. I'll have a fair idea then.

"They are happy with it; it is healing quite well. I am a little ahead of schedule, but wary of saying I'll be back at any specific date until I am told when."

Cooper was speaking in conjunction with Down Royal's launch of its showcase meeting at the magnificent Titanic Museum in Belfast. "Down Royal is a lovely track to ride, the chase track particularly. It's a cracking meeting there, one I have done well at."

Kauto Star lit up this fixture in the past and his trainer Paul Nicholls said: "We've fared very well at Down Royal. It's good prize-money.


"Silviniaco Conti goes for the Grade One and Le Mercurey is an intended runner in the race for second-season horses. Silviniaco loves going right-handed, he's very fit and what else would I run him in over here? He'll be ready for his life."

A couple of jockeys who will not make Down Royal are Andrew Lynch, now likely out for another fortnight, and Jack Kennedy, who fractured his leg on October 20.

Kennedy, speaking at the Belfast launch, hailed boss Gordon Elliott as "a genius. I am not sure what makes him tick but he's an absolute pleasure to work for.

"I am hoping to be back some time before Christmas," he said.

The Elliott-trained Don Poli is a possible for the big race at Down Royal, with Noel Meade hoping to run both Wounded Warrior (ground permitting) and Monksland in that event. Meade, however, will have to plan ahead without Apache Stronghold, which will miss the whole season after having a tendon fired.

Don Poli is a 33/1 chance for the 2017 Gold Cup but hardening as favourite is Thistlecrack. Last year's World Hurdle winner was all but foot-perfect on yesterday's chase debut at Chepstow.

Thistlecrack is as short as 4/1 for the big one after this four-length win at 1/6. Jockey Tom Scudamore said: "He can do things other horses can't dream of. He's phenomenal."

Elsewhere, Harzand may not be in training next year but it's likely that wonder mare Minding will not be retired, Aidan O'Brien said yesterday. "I think that's the plan; she would be one to look forward to."

Irish Independent

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