Latest Horse Racing News – 22nd February 2016

Silviniaco Conti Success, Jenny’s Surprise A Perfect Gift For Hampson’s

Those who doubted whether Silviniaco Conti would be able to make his class differential tell in Saturday’s Betfair Chase at Ascot were made to look rather silly come the finishing line. Following a very poor run in his favourite race, the King George VI Chase at Kempton, many questioned whether the 10-year-old would be able to rediscover a level of form that had resulted in six previous Grade 1 victories.

Well master handler Paul Nicholls knew just what to do. Take away the sarcoids (a painful skin condition), add a pair of blinkers and a wind treatment and Grade 1 win number seven never looked in doubt. Travelling sweetly throughout, the son of Dom Alco simply blew the field away in the end to win by 20 lengths.

We shouldn’t really be surprised to see this type of rejuvenation from a horse in the care of a trainer who has proven so adept at finding the keys required to return a horse to form in the past. The Grand National could be next on the agenda for Silviniaco Conti, who fluffed it at the Cheltenham Festival last year, finishing only seventh in the Gold Cup. The National is a race for which he now appears to be extremely well in as the weights for that contest were announced before this performance.

Sky Bet were certainly impressed, cutting the horse from 33/1 to 16/1 for the Aintree showpiece. An excellent jumper with a large touch of class, in this form it would be no surprise to see him go close.

With all the talk of Grade 1 glory and big race aspirations, the most touching tale of the racing week came at Sandown on Friday. The Royal Artillery Gold Cup is restricted to horses owned or leased by those to have served their country in the Royal Artillery or one of its establishments or units.

Jenny’s Surprise lined up for Sergeant Mark Hampson who served in the Royal Artillery for 22 years. Mark had been given just 30 days to live in December but determinedly battled on in order to see this race. The young lady aboard Jenny’s Surprise was Marks daughter, Brodie Hampson. Mark had long wished to see Brodie wearing his colours in this race and made it to the track to fulfil this dream.

In the race itself, Jenny’s Surprise looked well beaten, but in the manner of her owner stayed on doggedly to get up for an emotion drenched victory. A reminder that the joy this sport can bring is confined not only to the headline events and festivals but also more personal tales such as this.