Nicholls looking to Rouge Vif for Conti gold

Paul Nicholls is set to rely upon Rouge Vif to provide him with a third successive victory in the Coral Silviniaco Conti Chase at Kempton on Saturday.

The Ditcheat handler, who saddled Silviniaco Conti to win back-to-back renewals of the King George at the Sunbury venue, has landed the Grade Two contest named in his honour for the last two years with Frodon and Master Tommytucker.

Master Tommytucker is in the mix once again, but he is instead set to wait for the inaugural Winter Million Chase at Lingfield on Sunday week, leaving Rouge Vif to fly the flag for Nicholls this weekend.

“I’ve put two in the Silviniaco Conti but looking at the forecast it looks a dry week, so the intention at the moment would be to run Rouge Vif at Kempton,” said the champion trainer.

“I suspect we will leave Master Tommytucker for the new two-mile-six race at Lingfield the following weekend as he loves the testing ground.”

A seven-times winner for Harry Whittington, Rouge Vif finished last of four runners on his debut for Nicholls in the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham in November.

Nicholls added: “From what I saw of Rouge Vif at Cheltenham he probably wants this sort of trip and a flat track like Kempton is probably the ideal place to try him over it.”

Gelino Bello (right) chases home Blazing Khal at Cheltenham
Gelino Bello (right) chases home Blazing Khal at Cheltenham (David Davies/PA)

Gelino Bello appears a leading contender for the team in the Coral Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle.

The six-year-old has chased home the Charles Byrnes-trained Blazing Khal on his last two starts at Cheltenham, most recently over three miles.

He has the option of sticking to novice company in Saturday’s Ballymore Leamington Novices’ Hurdle at Warwick, but is instead set to enter the handicap arena at Kempton.

“Gelino Bello is in the Lanzarote but he is also in the Grade Two novice at Warwick on the same day. We will study the races as the week goes on, but I’d say at the moment the Lanzarote is where he will run,” said Nicholls.

“I think two-mile-five will suit him better. I’m not saying that he doesn’t get three miles, as if you take the winner out he would have won last time.

“He has got plenty of boot so this trip probably suits him quite nicely.

“He is an improving, nice young horse. I think being back on a flatter track would suit him quite well.”

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