Smith: Conti has to improve
The British Horseracing Authority's Head of Handicapping, Phil Smith, believes that Silviniaco Conti has to improve in order to win the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup.
- Related Content
Writing in his official blog on the BHA website, Smith revealed that the Lexus Chase and the King George VI posed him a different set of problems as he attempted to weigh up the merits of the two races but he was left in no doubt that Bobs Worth's victory at Leopardstown makes him the one to beat in March.
Bookmakers concur with Nicky Henderson's charge favourite across the boards for the Gold Cup at around 5/2 with Silviniaco Conti a general 4/1 chance.
Eight of the nine runners in the Leopardstown feature were covered by just 11 lengths in a slowly run renewal but Smith is in no doubt of the quality of Bobs Worth's performance.
"I was really impressed with Bobs Worth compared with the Haydock debacle where he was only at [a rating of] 134. The slowly run nature of the race did not suit him yet that is what champions do, they get the job done when events are not necessarily in their favour. Bobs Worth showed he is not just a slugger either," the assessor wrote.
"In my view he won the Lexus because of his superior speed to his opponents not because he outstayed them. He is back on track and ready to defend his unbeaten record at Cheltenham. With Silviniaco Conti in the field and hopefully getting round next time he might need to perform better to win the Gold Cup in 2014 than he did this year," he added.
Sir Des Champs was beaten a similar distance as he had been in the Gold Cup but Smith believes that he ran to a mark nearly a stone below his best on 160 with the winner handed a rating of 168 for his performance.
Those marks are below those achieved by Silviniaco Conti and Cue Card at Kempton but the handicapper still believes that Paul Nicholls' charge has something to prove in the arena at Cheltenham.
"Interestingly it [Silviniaco Conti's rating of 177] equates to the median winning performance in the race this century which was Kauto Star's run in 2008. That was the lowest performance of his five wins and the other two better performances than Silviniaco Conti's effort this year were First Gold's 178 in 2000 and Long Run's 179 in the 2010 edition run the following month. It is no disgrace being called an average King George winner when Kauto is ahead of you.
"I am content that Silviniaco Conti's win is at this level. It is supported by collateral form and race averages but I believe he can be better at Cheltenham and he will need to be if he is to beat an in form Bobs Worth in the Gold Cup," added Smith.
"What of Cue Card? He is clearly the most versatile of the top chasers in Britain and Ireland and I suspect he will get an entry in all three of the Grade Ones at the Cheltenham Festival.
"My figures had Cue Card performing a pound worse than he did at Haydock which was perfectly understandable given the ground but I have left his rating on 174. Please don't anyone say he doesn't stay three miles. He clearly does stay as to perform in the 170s is a real achievement and he clearly got three miles at Haydock.
"It was just that Silviniaco Conti who looked beaten to me two out stayed the three miles better on the ground. Cue Card is becoming an amazingly consistent horse at the top level as this was his fifth consecutive performance in the 170s, no mean feat."