By Geoffrey Riddle
A winner of two of his four starts over fences, the seven-year-old returned after nearly a year off the track due to a foot injury to record an impressive success over course and distance in the Sodexo Graduation Chase at the Christmas Meeting on December 23. He gave Adrien Du Pont 11lb and dished out a nine-length beating.
"Coney Island is in good form at the moment and he has come out of his latest run at Ascot really well,” Harty said.
"We'll see how he is in the next couple of weeks, but I would think that we would aim for the Betfair Ascot Chase. That is the plan and we are very pleased with him at the moment.
"The race fits nicely into the programme and he won nicely at the track last time over the distance. It is a very good race in its own right and he will be up against strong opposition, so it should be a good test.
"He goes on any ground except probably extreme conditions, so the ground won't be any real concern for him.
"He's won a Grade One before [Drinmore Novices' Chase], so running in a Grade One race like this against some good horses doesn't faze us as he has shown that he can handle these sort of races; he's Grade One material.
"The Cheltenham Gold Cup is definitely on our minds and he is entered, but we'll see how he gets on in his next race as that should leave a clearer picture as to where we stand."
Coney Island bids to join an illustrious roll of honour with horses such as Martha's Son, One Man, Teeton Mill, Tiutchev, Our Vic, Monet's Garden, Voy Por Ustedes and Kauto Star all present among the winners since the race was first run in 1995.
Cue Card also features among the 19 entries and the 12-year-old could bid to become the first three-time winner of the £150,000 contest.
A decisive six-length victor of the 2013 event, the King's Theatre gelding registered an emphatic 15-length success fro Shantou Flyer last year to maintain his 100 per cent record in Berkshire and gain his ninth Grade One victory victory.
He finished second to Bristol De Mai on his latest start in the Grade One Betfair Chase at Haydock Park on November 25, and skipped a tilt at a defence of his King George VI Chase crown on Boxing Day.
Other notable entries include Cue Card’s stablemate Fox Norton, Nicky Henderson’s Top Notch, who is the 11-4 favourite with the sponsors, and the most consistent British two-mile chaser this season in Paul Nicholls’ Politologue. Frodon, who won at Cheltenham on Saturday, also features.
“The entries look very strong and if, as expected, Coney Island, Top Notch, Waiting Patiently and Frodon all line up it will certainly be a vintage renewal,” Betfair spokesman Barry Orr said on Wednesday. “It’s obviously early days in the betting but Top Notch just heads the market at the moment at 11-4 just ahead of Coney Island at 3-1.’”
Betfair – 11-4 Top Notch; 3-1 Coney Island 7-2 Waiting Patiently, 7-1 Clan Des Obeaux, Frodon; 8-1 Cue Card, Fox Norton, 12-1 Cloudy Dream, 14-1 Saphir Du Rheu, 16-1 Gods Own, 20-1 Ar Mad, 25-1 Art Mauresque, Kylemore Lough, Speredek, 33-1 Ballyhill, Go Conquer, 50-1 King's Socks, Traffic Fluide, 66-1 Master Dee.
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