Tributes have been paid to National Hunt star Silviniaco Conti, who died following a team chasing accident.
Silviniaco Conti was enjoying an active retirement of team chasing and hunting after bowing out of his racing career in 2017.
The two-time King George VI winner had fallen at a fence towards the end of the course in the national championship class at the Fernie Team Chase on 8 April, but got up and appeared fine. He was taken to the vet the following morning to be checked over and was expected to make a full recovery, but sadly died on Monday afternoon.
Formerly trained by Paul Nicholls, the popular chestnut gelding had been with Charlotte Alexander since his retirement from racing — taking to his new career with enthusiasm.
He had a holiday in the field before being brought back into work last summer to start his retraining.
Charlotte, who rode Denman during his happy retirement of hunting, eventing and team chasing, worked with Brian Hutton at Talland and eventer Dan Bizzaro at Lyneham Heath on Silviniaco Conti’s retraining.
He had excelled in his training, enjoying cross-country schooling, and started team chasing in the autumn of 2017 before spending time on the hunting field over the winter.
“Silviniaco Conti was the most athletic, balanced and scopey horse,” Charlotte told H&H.
“He was a very quick learner and within the year that I had him he had gone from novice to open team chasing with such ease, had won prize money show jumping and was about to start British Eventing.”
She added he would have progressed through the eventing grades “very quickly”.
“It is not often a racehorse progresses so quickly in other disciplines, usually it can take a good two years, but Silviniaco Conti’s enthusiasm for life and wanting to learn and get on and do things made the transition so easy.
“He absolutely loved hunting and hunted mainly with the Beaufort — he was perfectly behaved and mannerly.
“His other talent was being brilliant at rounding up the sheep, which he did with such enthusiasm. He loved whipping them in and was skipping around like a polo pony, often seeing what he had to do before I asked him.
“He was a delight to look after and loved his polos and cuddles.
“Conti has left a huge hole, he was much loved at Paul’s and with me and will be much missed.”
Paul announced the sad news on his Betfair blog last night (9 April).
“I am really upset to report that Silviniaco Conti has died following an accident while team chasing on Sunday,” said Paul.
“He was a brilliant horse with great scope and won seven Grade One chases for us including the King George VI in successive years and also six Grade Two chases.
“Conti was a classy chaser who was at the top for six years and took over the mantle as stable star following the retirements of Kauto Star, Denman, Master Minded and Big Buck’s.
“He won over £1.152 million in prize money for his owners Chris Giles and Sullivan Bloodstock before enjoying his new life in retirement with Charlotte Alexander near Stow in the Wold over the past year.
“The initial diagnosis at the vets on Monday suggested he would be fine, but unfortunately he took a turn for the worse and died early this afternoon.”
Paul’s assistant trainer Harry Derham also paid tribute.
“As tough and classy a horse as I’ve ever had the pleasure to know,” he said.
“He provided us with so many special days, including seven Grade Ones.
“Thank you so much for all you gave us Conti. May you sleep well and rest in peace.”
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