SILVINIACO CONTI emerged as a genuine Gold Cup contender in the autumn and can shrug off an absence to keep his unbeaten record intact this season with victory here. Paul Nicholls' much-improved seven-year-old beat King George winner Long Run in the Betfair Chase at Haydock in November with The Giant Bolster back in third and Weird Al fourth. On a line through Long Run, he has nothing to fear from Junior while Master Of The Hall is out of sorts and French import Mail De Bievre will need to be smart to figure after a lengthy absence. Stamina could be a problem for Little Josh, who fell heavily at Cheltenham, and Menorah though the latter won well over shorter at Kempton in December and is very talented.
Master Of The Hall (IRE) 8-1 (11-7) Chased clear leading pair, closed 7th, went 2nd 10th until 3 out, weakened and lost 2nd before 2 out, tired when blundered last, lost poor 4th in closing stages, 5th of 7, well behind Reve De Sivola (11-7) at Ascot 3m 1f hdl G1 (1) hvy in Dec.
Menorah (IRE) 7-2 (11-5) Held up in touch, closed 10th, went 2nd when not fluent next, led 12th, clear 2 out, ridden out, won at Kempton 2m 4f Grade 2 chs (4yo+) (1) hvy in Dec beating Hunt Ball (11-3) by 3 1/2l, 5 ran.
Silviniaco Conti (FR) 7-4 (11-7) Led, not fluent last, soon ridden, kept on well, won at Haydock 3m chs G1 (1) sft in Nov beating Long Run (11-7) by 2 1/2l, 5 ran.
Weird Al (IRE) 7-1 (11-10) Mid-division on outside, struggling 13th, soon weakened and pulled up, in a race won by Cape Tribulation (11-6) at Cheltenham 3m 1f chs Grd 2 (1) hvy in Jan, 10 ran.
Junior 28-1 (11-10) Led or disputed lead to 10th, weakened 4 out, 7th of 9, 29l behind Long Run (11-10) at Kempton 3m Grade 1 chs (4yo+) (1) hvy in Dec.
The Giant Bolster 6-1 (11-10) Held up in touch on outside, pushed along 10th, lost place next, weakened and pulled up before 3 out, in a race won by Long Run (11-10) at Kempton 3m Grade 1 chs (4yo+) (1) hvy in Dec, 9 ran.
Little Josh (IRE) 20-1 (11-4) Made most until fell 6th, in a race won by Cape Tribulation (11-6) at Cheltenham 3m 1f chs Grd 2 (1) hvy in Jan, 10 ran.
Mail De Bievre (FR) 6-4fav (10-3) 4th of 10, 1 3/4l behind Rushwell (10-7) at Auteuil(FR) 2m 3f hdl sft in Sep '11.