Monday, 17 July 2017

Bradstocks aim for Hennessy over King George as Coneygree targets second Cheltenham Gold Cup

Sara Bradstock insists Coneygree is 'unlikely' to head to the King George VI Chase, as he hopes to retain the Cheltenham Gold Cup three years on.

He has been plagued with injury ever since landing the Festival’s highlight race in 2015, but returned to his best when finishing third in the Punchestown Gold Cup.

Most likely he may target Newbury’s Ladbroke Chase (formerly known as the Hennessy) where the likes of Bob’s Worth, Native River and stable superstar Carruthers have all won in recent years.

He had come back from a lengthy absence that day, and may well be set for another big year this season.

"Coneygree proved at Punchestown that he is still, despite his advancing years and fractures in three legs, arguably the best staying chaser in Britain and Ireland,” Bradstock wrote on the team’s website.

"With everything against him, he approached the second last going much better than Sizing John and Djakadam. Then momentarily, it all went wrong when he decided that the ground was a little too fast to jump off the long stride that would be so natural to him on winter ground.

Coneygree was only beaten a length and a half by Irish, English and Punchestown Gold Cup winning Sizing John on return from a five month break 

"He hit the fence hard and was momentarily brought to a standstill, before picking himself up and regaining his position alongside Djackadam and Sizing John at the last. Only then did the lack of a recent run begin to tell and he was beaten into third.

"He is back in training after a short break and we will have him ready to run early in the autumn 2017 if there is some suitable ground either here or in Ireland.”

Last year Coneygree made his return in Betfair Chase at Haydock, but he was second best when fifteen lengths behind Colin Tizzard’s Cue Card.

Another venture to Ireland could be the plan for the dual Grade One winner, but he will want to go where he gets ideal soft ground.

“The possibilities are the Guinness Kerry National Handicap Chase at Listowel in September, the JN Champion Chase at Down Royal in early November, the open handicap at Chepstow or the Bet365 Charlie Hall at Wetherby,” she added.

"After an initial run, he will probably be aimed at the Ladbrokes (previously the Hennessy) Gold Cup at Newbury, unless we discover at Listowel that his superior stamina is not suited to giving away weight in a handicap race. In which case he may go back to the Betfair Chase at Haydock.

Coneygree made history when becoming the first novice to win the Gold Cup since Captain Christy in 1974.

Yet Bradstock is unlikely to take the ten-year-old to the King George on Boxing Day, where the chaser won the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase by thirty lengths on the same card.

“He would only run in the King George VI at Kempton Park if he came out of the Ladbrokes (Hennessy) or Betfair Chase completely fresh,” she added.

“We are thinking that he may skip that and head for the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham in January or the Denman Chase at Newbury in February, to prepare for the Gold Cup at Cheltenham in March.

“He is, and will always be, our massive and miraculous hero who owes us nothing.”

Bookmakers are pricing as high as 25-1 to retain his Gold Cup prize, a market headed by King George winner Thistlecrack and last year’s winner Sizing John.

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