Coneygree on course for Kerry
All roads lead to Listowel for Coneygree after connections confirmed the popular chaser firmly on course for next month's Kerry National.
The seriously talented but fragile 10-year-old performed magnificently to finish a close third in the Punchestown Gold Cup in April, on what was his first appearance since filling the runner-up spot in the Betfair Chase at Haydock last November.
It was only his third start since becoming the first novice in 41 years to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2015.
Connections were initially keen on a possible appearance in the French Champion Hurdle, but shelved plans for a cross-Channel raid and he was instead given a short break before being brought back into training.
Sara Bradstock, wife of trainer Mark, has issued a bullish update on his subsequent progress.
"All being well we're heading to Listowel. They tell me the ground will be soft enough, but I just want to check with a few people that it won't be patchy," said Bradstock.
"He feels absolutely wonderful at the moment. I really could not be happier with him.
"He's really exciting me. We gave him a month off after Punchestown and not only has he come on since then physically, but mentally, too.
"We were very happy with him going into Punchestown, but I think that run gave him was more confidence in his own soundness.
"He's running around like an idiot again now and touching every piece of wood I can find – right now he feels as good as he did before he won the Gold Cup."
The Kerry National takes place on September 13, which is the fourth day of the seven-day Harvest Festival.
Coneygree will almost certainly carry top-weight, but Bradstock feels it will be a worthwhile exercise ahead of a possible tilt at the Ladbrokes Trophy – formerly the Hennessy Gold Cup – at Newbury on December 2.
"The idea of going to Listowel is we'll get a run in early and that will give us a couple of months before one of the races at the end of November," Bradstock added.
"One thing we don't know is whether lesser horses carrying 10 stone can go the pace he can with top-weight.
"I don't think they will be able to, but we'll find that out in the Kerry National and it will help us decide whether we can try to do the same thing at Newbury, instead of going to Haydock for the Betfair Chase."
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