2014 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Coneygree is set for a return to action this weekend at Haydock in the Grade One Betfair Chase, 377 days since his last racecourse appearance.
Mark Bradstock’s chaser picked up a back injury in the build-up to the 2015 King George VI Chase. It ruled him out of the rest of the 2015/16 campaign which meant he was unable to defend his Cheltenham Gold Cup crown at the Festival in the race won by Don Cossack.
Coneygree’s road to Gold Cup success started at Newbury in November 2014 where he won a Grade Two novices’ chase. He was only seven years old at the time but showed a lot of maturity on his debut over fences in a sound round of jumping.
A month later he scored by 40 lengths in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day where he established himself as the leading novice chaser in the UK. Although the Gold Cup was always on the mind of connections, they wanted to take the novice contest at Kempton rather than the King George where he would have been taking on much more experienced jumpers in the early stages of his chase career.
In just his third run over fences, Coneygree added the Grade Two Betfair Denman Chase in his final preparation outing for Cheltenham. He was once again made all and never looked like he was going to be anywhere other than in first place when crossing the finishing line.
Bradstock’s runner went into the 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup at 7/1 in the betting in a hotly contested renewal of the race. It included Silviniaco Conti, defending champion Bobs Worth, Road To Riches and Djakadam. Coneygree took up the running in the early stages of the 3m2f contest and stayed on gamely to hold off Djakadam from Willie Mullins’ stable.
The plan this year will be to get the horse 100% fit again and ready for another tilt at the Gold Cup. Saturday’s race will be a good marker as to where connections are with the horse and to see how he competes with the best in the division this season.
With Nico de Boinville out with a broken arm, Champion Jockey Richard Johnson is set to take over on the horse this weekend where he is 2-1 to prevail.
Silviniaco Conti Back at Haydock for Hat-Trick Bid
Silviniaco Conti is bidding for his third success in the Betfair Chase at Haydock on Saturday. The 10-year-old first scored in 2012 at the age of just six where he got the better of Long Run and The Giant Bolster at the Lancashire track for the first Grade One chase success of his career.
Silviniaco Conti By Carine06
Unlike some of his rivals at Haydock this weekend, Silviniaco Conti has already had the benefit of a run this season as he finished second in the JNwine.com Champion Chase earlier this month at Down Royal in the race won by Valseur Lido. Paul Nicholls’ runner was in contention with three fences left to jump, however, he could only keep on at one pace in the closing stages as the winner stretched away from him to score by 11 lengths.
At the age of 10, Silviniaco Conti is embarking on his seventh season in the UK after he was purchased from France at an early age. His record suggests he runs well fresh in the early stages of his campaigns therefore he has been tipped up to record his hat-trick of wins in the race where he can currently be backed at 7/1 at the time of writing for the Grade One.
If successful at Haydock, Nicholls’ chaser will then most likely line up for the King George at Kempton in what is leg two of the Chase Triple Crown. Silviniaco Conti is a two-time winner of the Boxing Day feature but was pulled up last year in a disappointing effort.
The Cheltenham Gold Cup could also be on Nicholls’ radar once again. The biggest race on the national hunt calendar has eluded the horse in his career. The best the 10-year-old has finished in the feature of the festival is fourth. His record at Cheltenham currently reads 0-3 which suggests Prestbury Park is not the horse’s favourite track.
Defending Champion Cue Card Returns for Shot as Chase Triple Crown
Connections of Cue Card will be hoping their horse comes on from his run at Wetherby last month in the Charlie Hall Chase when he defends his title in the Betfair Chase on Saturday.
Cue Card finished third in his seasonal reappearance in the Grade Two contest when going off as the odds-on favourite. He tracked the leaders at the Yorkshire track in the early stages of the 3m contest and looked to be in control when he took the lead with four fences to jump. However the 10-year-old faded in the stretch, allowing Irish Cavalier and Menorah to fight it out for the win with the former landing the spoils at 16/1. The 2015/16 campaign was arguably Cue Card’s best of his career so far. He was successful at Wetherby before going on to score in the Betfair Chase by an impressive seven lengths ahead of Silviniaco Conti and Dynaste respectively.
Cue Card By Carine06
Sadly things did not work out for Cue Card in the Blue Riband event of the meeting. He was travelling well before coming down three fences from home.
The fall at Cheltenham did not damage Cue Card physically or affect his confidence as he returned a month later to prevail at Aintree in the Betfred Bowl Chase which included Don Poli and Djkadam but not the Gold winner Don Cossack.
Unfortunately for connections, Cue Card was not able to finish the season on a high as he could only come home fourth in the Punchestown Gold Cup at the end of April. That run in Ireland brought up his sixth run of the campaign and he looked tired in the latter stages of the contest which was won by Carlingford Lough.
Haydock Renewal One of the Strongest in Years
This year’s Betfair Chase looks set to be one of the strongest in many years as all the established stars in the 3m division look set to chase the £1 million on offer in the Chase Triple Crown.
Connections of Cue Card will be hoping his Wetherby run was just a blip, while it will be some training performance by Bradstock and his team if Coneygree can return to winning ways in the top Grade after over a year off the track.