Sara Bradstock gave Andy Stephens the inside track on Coneygree after the 2015 Gold Cup winner had worked at Newbury on Tuesday
By Andy Stephens at Newbury
Coneygree is on course to run in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury on Saturday week after coming through a schooling session at the track with flying colours on Tuesday morning.
The 2015 Gold Cup winner jumped three fences under David Bass upsides Flintham, his stablemate, before the pair breezed up the home straight in the company of a younger stablemate.
Coneygree put up a bold leap at the second of the obstacles and showed no ill effects from the cut he suffered when pulling up before halfway in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby last month. That injury was bandaged but, with that aid falling off, there was no sign of it having reopened after his exercise.
Sarah Bradstock, wife and assistant of trainer Mark, was delighted with the workout but admitted lack of a full race was a slight concern with the stable’s fragile flagbearer, who is a general 20-1 chance to become the ninth Gold Cup winner to win the showpiece race of the two-day Ladbrokes Winter Carnival.
“He jumped out of David’s hands at the second and he measured the third brilliantly, like he does, so I’m delighted,” she said. “He had a week off after Wetherby, worked last week, did this today and will do another couple of bits next week but I don’t pretend that I wouldn’t be much happier if he had a race under his belt.
“He’s fragile, as you know, and every step he takes is a worry to me. Anything can happen with him but, unless the ground turns bottomless we plan to run. We’ve always said the Hennessy [Ladbrokes Trophy] would suit him.”
Coneygree will have to carry top weight and the last to defy 11st 12lb was the mighty Denman a decade ago. Age is also against the 10-year-old because since 1982 it has been won exclusively by horses aged nine or younger. Indeed, since the race was first run in 1957, only three aged ten or older have triumphed.Coneygree, left, ridden by Bass, and Flintham, partnered by Lily Bradstock, in full flow during their workout together at Newbury
However, Coneygree is not your average ten-year-old - he has had only 14 races because of his injury problems - and Bradstock is not concerned that he will be burdened with top weight, pointing out that he is an imposing individual used to carry big burdens.
“What’s more relevant is that he’s running off 165 and [off that mark] I don’t think he has to run as well as when he won the Gold Cup,” Bradstock said. “What we won’t know, until we do it, is whether giving rivals 2st will make it easier for them to go his gallop. If something’s got 10st, perhaps they will be able to go with him.”
There is no intention of a change in tactics. Much like Carruthers, his half-brother who won the Ladbrokes Trophy in 2011, he is likely to be invited to dominate by Nico de Boinville, his regular jockey who will be re-united with him.
“He doesn’t have a turn of foot and if you rode him from the middle he would finish in the middle,” Bradstock said. “We are certainly not worried about him having lost any speed because he didn’t have any to lose.”
Coneygree’s principal weapons have been his fluent jumping and ability to gallop relentlessly. Bradstock rides him in all his work and is confident those assets remain intact.
Asked whether he had another big win in him, she said: “I truly believe he has. He’s bouncy, full of himself and feels incredible. I see no reason why he can’t be as good as ever this season, if not better.
“Last year was about getting him back from injuries and now he just feels more confident. We healed the injuries but he’s very clever and he had to know [in his head] it was all OK.
“That’s why we were so delighted with how he ran at Punchestown [in April] and since then, confidence wise, he’s improved again.”
Things went wrong for Coneygree at the third fence at Wetherby, a ditch, where he stood off a long way and did well to get to the other side. It was there that he suffered his cut and he lost his action a few fences later.Fry, right, gets a debrieg from Fehily after American's exercise
“The mistake he made at the open ditch was similar to when we once schooled him at Ffos Las,” Bradstock said. “It’s a little bit of arrogance. We’ve done a bit of extra schooling at home but I don’t think it’s anything more than Nico saying ‘we are going in close’ and Coneygree saying ‘yeah, well I’m going [long]’ and actually getting a bit wrong.”
Harry Fry gave American, who was one of last season’s leading novices, a similar workout to Coneygree about an hour earlier.
The 7-1 second-favourite with the race sponsors worked alongside stablemate Overtown Express under Noel Fehily and Fry said: "That was ideal. We took him to Wincanton 10 days ago and he's come on nicely for that.
"He jumped the three down the back straight perfectly and strode on up the straight. There's 12 days to go now and it's all systems go.
"I've put him in the Welsh National, only really as a back-up. He's a horse that doesn't run too regularly and he has got that entry [at Chepstow], but it's all about a week on Saturday. It's a huge race in its own right and I would not swap him for anything in the race, and neither would Noel."
Select any odd to add a bet