With all the technology and innovation in this world, something us humans still haven’t mastered is the ability to stop time, and sadly once again this season we have another victim of time, the wonderfully genuine, little chestnut fighter, the truly fabulous Silvinaco Conti.
Conti at his pomp was an absolute joy to behold, a relentless little force which danced his way to 16 victories and collected just shy of a million quid and, while never winning a Gold Cup in recent times, he has been as fine a staying chaser around. For me, Conti’s favourite finest moment on the track was his 2014 King George, a day where he quite simply jumped his top-class rivals silly and galloped his field into the ground. But I won’t specifically remember him for that. I’ll remember him for the tiny, badly built chestnut which couldn’t get out of his own way on the gallop, but had an engine superior to the vast majority of his peers hidden in that odd-looking chassis of his.
Team skills contribute to Silvi success story
He was an absolute belter, brilliantly handled by the team he has had around him over the years. From Gemma Groves, Conti’s mother over the years who has put him in front of everything else in her life, to Lorraine Morris who has accompanied him on the gallops every day, often trying to persuade him that reverse gear wasn’t how he was going to win Grade Ones.
Clifford has kept his eye on his small appetite and strange little body, always checking his sarcoids weren’t playing up and that his wheels were still on while Buffy Shirley-Beavan our vet has so often has nursed Silv back to full power.
Of course to win seven Grade Ones a horse needs a bundle of class. However, make no mistake this was a athlete handled quite brilliantly by Paul, who minded him and cared for him with compassion and a real belief that when at his best he was a chaser cut from the finest cloth.
Happily and fortunately Conti is now on the verge of starting an active and no doubt happy retirement with Charlotte Alexander who is no stranger to superstars over the years with Earthmover and Denman having set up new home there. Just like his predecessors, Conti will have a fantastic home.
We’ve all been incredibly lucky to have him call Manor Farm Stables home and I feel genuinely privileged to have put my leg across him a good number of times; flashy he wasn’t but a proper, proper racehorse he was and, as with most top class horses, a top class jockey goes hand in hand in partnership. In Noel Fehily, Conti enjoyed had exactly that.
Those two together made a Saville Row suit look second rate they were so classy and between them they’ve given us all some fabulous memories.
Aintree might have been what we dreamed of, but in all reality our horses didn’t run badly, they just came up a touch short of the mark. That didn’t stop us all having a great week though. Good food, good company and plenty of laughs were the order of the week with and, what with it being my first year as assistant trainer, it marked my first bash at the annual assistant trainer’s speech – an innovation that Dan Skelton thought would be a good idea some years ago and we’ve all struggled with since.
The speech came after what I guessed was our 17th course at the local Sing Fae Chinese restaurant. I got up, told a few fourth-rate jokes which queued some polite laughter and happily that was done for the year. Luckily, I’m of the opinion that most of my audience were nicely oiled by the time of my speech so weren’t in a great state to critique.
Poli stumble opens the door for Nick and Benedeto
As you all know, racing comes with huge ups and downs, but I’m not sure in a furlong I’ve ever felt as many different emotions as I did when Politilogue jumped the last in front in the novice chase on Saturday. What transpired was completely bizarre as momentum seemed to take over a good way after the fence and he crashed to the floor.
Meanwhile San Benedeto and Nick Scholfield were starting to cut down the horse in second, Forest Bihan, and thank God he got there on the nod to record his sixth win this season and fourth in a row. But this was a special one, his first Grade One and a day in the sun for a horse and an owner who could not deserve it more.
Mr and Mrs Vogt are wonderful people who support Paul and his yard with great enthusiasm, they are always at the races and smile on bad days just as much as the good, Mr Vogt’s hobbies include making sure the assistant trainer always has plenty of stick which makes for some great chat at the races and I was made up for the Vogt’s to win their first Grade One.
National team return safe and sound
Happily, my wish for the Grand National came true as all horses and riders came home safe and, on a day where the sweltering heat didn’t do us any favours, the team at Aintree were absolutely incredible and cared for all the horses immaculately. Each horse had a team with them straight after the race escorting them into the shaded cooling off area ensuring they were quickly rehydrated and their recovery process started immediately.
Away from Aintree, the week was a most productive one with Black Corton resuming the winning thread after his winter break, Garo De Juilley getting off the mark, Contre Tous going back-to-back and Dreamcatching putting in a smooth display at Market Rasen, in the process helping my bestie Stan Sheppard to ride out his 5lb claim.
As you can it’s been another busy and successful week for team Ditcheat and we are once again looking forward to another seven days of effort and action. It’s hard work this horse racing business, but through it all we stick together in team Nicholls and this week that strength shone through brilliantly. While we were having a great time up at Aintree the team at home coped with double the normal work load and battled on to keep our horses cared for and the show on the road.
We are now just two winners of Paul’s best ever tally numerically and that is something everyone is hugely proud of and rightly so. Championship or no championship, team Ditcheat is a unit right at the top of our game and thrilled to be there.