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MARK BRADSTOCK has said Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Coneygree is ‘in great nick’ ahead of his return in the Betfair Chase at Haydock on Saturday after an injury-enforced lay-off.
The nine-year-old has won nine of his 11 starts and is unbeaten in five chases highlighted by a bold front-running win in the 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup.
The half-brother to 2011 Hennessy Gold Cup winner Carruthers was the first novice to win the Gold Cup since Captain Christy won the blue Riband event in 1974. Coneygree was a leading fancy for the King George VI Chase at Kempton last year when he was injured.
Bradstock has been taking no chances ahead of his stable star’s belated return and after a patient rehabilitation he pleased connections in a racecourse gallop at Haydock.
Coneygree is set to take on a maximum of six rivals at Haydock in the £209,000 contest over three miles where he will be ridden by champion jockey Richard Johnson, who steps in to replace the injured Nico de Boinville.
“It is going to be quite an ask for him on Saturday after having a year off, but we are looking forward to it,” Bradstock said ahead of the Grade 1 contest that is the first leg of the £1million Jockey Club Chase Triple Crown that also comprises the King George and Cheltenham Gold Cup.
“Coneygree had recuperation, standing in box, and then progressed to leading out. He was then ridden out and the rehabilitation is now complete.
“It has been frustrating and depressing, not just for us but for his owners, Nico [de Boinville – jockey] and everybody.
“He is a pretty cool horse. Luckily, his owners are very patient. I have a wife who spends more time looking after Coneygree than she does me.
“He has done plenty of work and had a very good preparation because he did not have a complete holiday out in the field. Sure, one would have liked to gallop him more often on grass but apart from that he is in great nick. Hopefully, he will do himself justice.
“Horses find all-weather a lot easier than the grass and I suppose that was one reason we went to Haydock last week to work him on grass.
“Coneygree has a very, very deceptive gallop. If you stand and watch him on the gallops, he is not a wow factor. But you sit and try and follow him, he has this extraordinary and relentless gallop that he can go, which was seen in the Denman and the Cheltenham Gold Cup.”
Bradstock’s wife Sara, Coneygree’s regular work rider, added: “We have been walking him three and a half hours a day as part of his recuperation. Here we are, miraculously he is back and he feels really good.”
Horse Talk with Simon Jackson. Showcasing horse racing in London and the south east.