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10 Mar 2015

Coneygree hoping for Gold Cup glee

The top stables are used to having good horses running in the biggest races, but the chances of dining at National Hunt racing’s top table are a little more fleeting when you are a smaller yard.
Perhaps that is why, when you do have a horse which looks like it can be top class, you should grasp every possible opportunity to go for gold.
That certainly seems to be the case for Mark Bradstock, who is set to let his stable star Coneygree take his chance in the Cheltenham Gold Cup after scrapping a tilt at the RSA Chase instead.
As a novice, Coneygree certainly has it all to do in the Gold Cup after running just three times over fences in his career. Captain Christy was the last novice to win the Gold Cup in 1974, while Gloria Victis is a tragic reminder of what can happen after suffering a fatal fall when running in the 2000 race as a novice.
But, after Coneygree’s impressive win against more experienced chasers in the Denman Chase last time, you can understand why Bradstock has succumbed to the temptation of going for the Gold Cup. And if you fancy Coneygree’s chances just as much as the trainer by betting on Cheltenham Festival races then he is 9/1 with bet365.
The question now is whether Coneygree is capable of making an impact in the Gold Cup.
He is proven around Cheltenham, albeit over hurdles, which is a plus. He won Grade Two trials for both the Neptune and Albert Bartlett in 2012 before then finishing third in another trial for the Neptune behind At Fishers Cross and The New One, which is extremely solid form, in January 2013.
That proved to be Coneygree’s last run until his chasing debut at Newbury in November last year. He made all to beat Dell ‘Arca by a length-and-a-half in a Grade Two on soft ground over two-and-a-half miles.
Coneygree’s second start over fences was in the Grade One Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton over Christmas when he beat Warden Hill by 40 lengths. Saphir Du Rheu, who unseated his rider at Newbury, fell in that race and is ante-post favourite for the World Hurdle. Carraig Mor and Sausalito Sunrise, who could also have given Coneygree a race, both failed to make it round as well.
But Coneygree showed back at Newbury in the Denman Chase that there is plenty of substance behind his ability after making all to beat Houblon Des Obeaux by seven lengths. Houblon Des Obeaux had finished second to Many Clouds in the Hennessy earlier in the season and was ninth in the Gold Cup last year. Unioniste, a leading contender for the Grand National, was third and 2014 JLT Novices’ Chase winner Taquin Du Seuil was fourth.
Still on the upgrade, Coneygree will line up for the Gold Cup with a solid chance, despite his lack of experience. He is tough, jumps well and could prove hard to overhaul if he is allowed his own way in front.
It would certainly be a remarkable training achievement if Bradstock can pull it off.