Coneygree team eye million
Mark Bradstock is keen to point Coneygree at the £1million bonus put up by Jockey Club Racecourses if the 2015 Gold Cup winner makes a successful return to action in the Betfair Chase at Haydock on Saturday.
Coneygree: Among Betfair Chase hopefuls
The Letcombe Bassett trainer welcomed the media into his boutique yard on Monday and stated he would "look stupid" if he swerved the challenge to go for the King George VI Chase followed by the Gold Cup should his charge strike on Merseyside this weekend.
With riding arrangements for that Grade One contest still up in the air, Bradstock emphasised Coneygree has done plenty of work on the all-weather at home as well as a much-needed workout on turf in a recent visit to Haydock with two stablemates.
"It's wonderful to have him back, and hopefully he can build and build and build," said the trainer.
"I imagine he will go off in front and any softening in conditions will be a help rather than a hindrance.
"He never looks impressive in his work here, but he has this extraordinarily deceptive gallop that we saw to best effect when he annihilated some decent handicappers in the Denman Chase at Newbury."
Bradstock and his wife Sara hope that whoever rides Coneygree at Haydock will school the gelding beforehand. With Nico de Boinville sidelined by injury, Richard Johnson is Bradstock's first choice.
"He'll ride him if he's available and we're just waiting to hear," said Bradstock. "When we get the nod, he'll come in and give him a jump."
The problem for the Bradstocks is the entry given on Monday to Garde La Victoire for the Shawbrook Handicap Chase at Ascot on the same day.
"I know there's a big race at Ascot which I haven't seen the entries for, but fingers crossed he'll come," the trainer said.
"Aidan Coleman would be the next option and if he can't take the ride we would be scratching our heads."
A second alternative option is the entry given to Menorah in the Betfair Chase, but the wet weather forecast seems likely to deter connections from taking that option.
"It's going to be wet this week and I'd be reasonably confident we'd be racing on proper soft ground on Saturday," said Haydock clerk of the course Kirkland Tellwright.
Looking at the bonus, Bradstock went on: "If we win on Saturday we shall certainly aim him towards Kempton, as that bonus is not to be sniffed at. In fact, we would be mad not to go for it.
"We took him to Haydock for a proper gallop over two miles with a young horse and then old Carruthers jumped in for the last three to four furlongs. It's been so dry with us that it was his first work on grass since he came back in.
"He's only run 11 times in his life and has only been beaten twice. Furthermore, he does tend to go well fresh from a break, as he showed when winning at Uttoxeter in successive seasons.
"Hopefully after Saturday it will be the King George, followed by the Denman Chase and then the Gold Cup. There is also the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham, but it comes closer to Kempton than Newbury."
A final assessment of the Betfair Chase and the task faced by Coneygree is that the Gold Cup winner is pretty much match-fit after a satisfying journey back from the hock injury that put him on the sidelines after his comeback triumph at Sandown last season.
Bradstock concluded: "He had a lot of recuperation standing in his box and then progressed to being ridden out, trotting and galloping. He's enjoyed a good, hardcore preparation."
Coneygree was one of 10 horses to stand their ground for the Haydock showpiece at the five-day stage.
Colin Tizzard can do little wrong this season, but his star Cue Card suffered a surprise reverse when only third in last month's Charlie Hall at Wetherby.
He will attempt to win the race for the third time after coasting to victory 12 months ago and scoring in 2013, but he will meet his Wetherby conqueror Irish Cavalier once again, although they will race off level weights this time.
Seeyouatmidnight looked impressive in beating Bristol De Mai at Carlisle last month and represents Scottish handler Sandy Thomson.
Paul Nicholls has reduced his team to just dual winner Silviniaco Conti, but he was no match for Valseur Lido on his return.
God's Own could step up in trip for Tom George after finishing well in the Old Roan, while Menorah could take his chance for Philip Hobbs.
Gordon Elliott has the choice of Outlander or Roi Des Francs and there is also the possibility of Vezelay coming from France.
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