1pt win Silviniaco Conti @4/1, 15:35 Ascot

Its close proximity to Cheltenham Festival gives this Grade 1 a false feeling – nevertheless, a quality field has assembled containing a dual-King George and Aintree Bowl winner, a Ryanair winner, a Hennessy winner and an ex-Champion Chaser.

The obvious place to start is SILVINIACO CONTI, a serial Grade 1 winner and one of the star chasers of recent seasons – outside the Festival, that is.

Possibly outclassed in this year’s King George, he is looking to bounce back to form after being twice thumped by Cue Card this season – though nasty-sounding sarcoids have been offered as an excuse.

He’s over those now but the concern is the two-and-a-half-mile trip, as his best is over three.

Paul Nicholls’s words don’t fill me with a lot of confidence either.

“Hand on my heart I’d say if I wanted to have him mega fit I wouldn’t have minded another two weeks to have him spot on for this. But Conti has been working nicely since he had a quiet ten days at the start of the year following a procedure to re-cauterise his palate.”

He’s drifted to 4/1, though, and that’s a very nice price for the undoubted class horse in the race, so it’s tough to ignore given the form of his second behind Cue Card in this season’s Betfair Chase was rated at 164 – 13lbs lower than his peak – and he’s still the highest-rated in the field.

One who will appreciate the trip is Dynaste, having won the Ryanair a few seasons ago, but he’s been a shadow of his former self this season.

He’s had a wind operation – though whether it’ll work is anyone’s guess – so many will fancy his chances and 9/2 is a fair-enough price.

I’d rather pass given his last run was such a shocker at this track, and aged ten his best days are probably behind him.

I also can’t be backing the elder statesman in the race, Flemenstar, even if he very fortuitously won a Grade 1 at Leopardstown at Christmas, as this is not his trip.

Youth may be an asset, but it’s hard to fancy the seven-year-old novice Amore Alato on the form of his last run where he was brushed off by the JLT-favourite Bristol De Mai, though he returns to Ascot in an attempt to put right the last-fence blunder that cost him a Grade 2 at the track in December.

He has a mountain to climb on ratings but this does look like a confident declaration from his connections so he might fly under the radar.

A year older is Royal Regatta, who arrives in fine form after two good runs at the track.

The most recent was a valiant second-placed defeat under top-weight in heavy conditions, and the first was a never-off-the-bridle defeat of subsequent Thyestes Chase-second Mala Beach.

Whether that form is up to this level is the concern, but he seems to be improving, better than ever and acts on the track.

Ma Filleule simply hasn’t looked very good this season, given she was a good second in last year’s Ryanair, and it’s impossible to fancy her chances around the 6/1 mark given she looks to have regressed since finishing second in this race last year.

I’d say the biggest threat is Nicky Henderson’s Triolo D’Alene, who looked very useful when beating Ptit Zig at Kempton on seasonal début.

It was a classy jumping performance – one of his best – but the fact remains his best is miles behind that of Conti’s and he should prove no match should the real horse turn up.

That leaves Savello, who surely can’t beat all these bonafide Grade 1 horses – can he?

I wasn’t going to bet on the race, but the 4/1 about Conti is just too good to ignore.

1pt win Silviniaco Conti @4/1 with Bet365, 15:35 Ascot

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