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Jockey has faith in Silviniaco Conti: Noel Fehily Interview

Silviniaco Conti is favourite for the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup, has won the King George VI Chase and Betfair Chase but many still do not rate his chances of success on Friday. Two previous failures in the Cheltenham Gold Cup hang heavy over Silviniaco Conti, leaving many to question his ability to reproduce his form of elsewhere around Cheltenham. Despite the naysayers, Silviniaco Conti’s jockey Noel Fehily is confident his mount can produce a top performance and come home in front.

He says: “It’s fairly well documented that he had issues last season but they’re well behind him now and I think he’s simply a better horse this season. He’s been going well and his form has been superb this season so hopefully he ticks all the boxes for Cheltenham.

“I don’t have any problems with him going around the course. He jumped the last in front last year and he didn’t see his races out quite the same last year and he is this year. Even on flat tracks when he was winning he wasn’t seeing the race out. He’s a better horse so touch wood he’ll get up the hill in front this time.”

As well as having treatment on stomach ulcers, Silviniaco Conti has been fitted with cheekpieces for his last two starts by trainer Paul Nicholls and Fehily feels they have been greatly beneficial to the nine-year-old.

“I think they’ve helped him concentrate as he was starting to race a little bit lazy so Paul put them on him and he hasn’t looked back since,” Fehily says. “They obviously have a good effect on him and hopefully it can make the difference again in the Gold Cup.”

While Fehily’s week builds to Silviniaco Conti on Friday, he has plenty of exciting rides before then including Zarkandar, who is challenging for favouritism in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle. However, by riding Zarkandar, Fehily has had to abandon his old friend Rock On Ruby, however with Ruby getting ruled out this is no longer an issue.

“I have a contract with the owners of Zarkandar and it’s something I was hoping wouldn’t happen, but they are going to clash and I’m going to have to ride Zarkandar,” Fehily says. “They’re both very good horses and also the form both have shown this season has been exceptional and maybe even better than any year before. I think Zarkandar’s got a very good chance. Hopefully he can win.”

“He was second to First Lieutenant in the Neptune over two and a half miles and this is the first year it seems to me that he has properly turned into a stayer,” he says. “He is racing more relaxed and I thought at Cheltenham on New’s Year Day he put up a great performance on ground that was plenty soft and hard work. I thought he stayed really well that day so three miles on good ground should be in his compass.”

Thomas Brown was also a winner for Fehily and trainer Harry Fry on New Year’s Day at Cheltenham, and the jockey cannot wait to ride the six-year-old in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle.

He says: “Thomas Brown has been progressing all season. He was a good bumper horse last season and has put up some good performances this season but he’s crying out to go three miles. He’ll get that at Cheltenham and we’re really looking forward to him as he’s been in such good form since his last run.”