Coneygree’s revenge bid: Yay or neigh?
Can Coneygree exact revenge upon Cue Card in the 32Red King George VI Chase on Boxing Day? Our team have their say.
Cue Card on his way to victory in Saturday's Betfair Chase.
Will Hayler: The question seems to presume Coneygree will turn up at Kempton and, personally, I'm far from convinced. Matt Chapman suggested on the Sunday Forum on At The Races that talk of an alternative crack at Leopardstown's Lexus Chase is being made out of lip service to the track but I'm not so sure tackling Don Poli, Djakadam, Valseur Lido etc won't prove a more tempting proposition. Time will tell. I drove back from Haydock on Saturday with an aggrieved Coneygree backer, who felt Richard Johnson had been a little too considerate with his mount on his first start for 13 months, but connections seemed genuinely delighted and I was left struggling to see how a harder ride would have made any difference to the final result on the day. However, should he turn up, Kempton could prove a different matter. Sara Bradstock is convinced that Coneygree will have benefited from the outing on ground that was thought to be 'too deep' for him and it's not difficult to see this relentless galloper pouring it on from the front. He could get all of his rivals out of their comfort zone if he's allowed to attack his fences a little more aggressively than at Haydock and his stamina may just win the day – his Gold Cup win confirmed him a particularly thorough stayer and it's a question of playing to those strengths.
VERDICT: YAY – Coneygree can grind Cue Card into submission with a run under his belt
Ian Ogg: The case for Cue Card retaining his King George VI Chase crown is clear with the 10-year-old performing to somewhere near his best at Haydock on Saturday and the two horses that pushed him closest at Kempton last year, sadly absent. Coneygree is entitled to – and is expected to – improve from his reappearance but it's not hard to conclude that he may be better suited by the demands of the Lexus Chase than taking on the reigning champion at a track that clearly suits him so well. Cue Card is more tractable now than he's ever been and that affords connections the chance to ride each race as it comes as we saw at the weekend and that versatility shouldn't be underestimated.
VERDICT: NEIGH – Versatility is Cue Card's strong suit
Dave Ord: I am inclined to agree with Will in that the Lexus may start to make strong appeal to the Coneygree team between now and Christmas. It was certainly an encouraging return to action at Haydock but it's a huge leap to say he'll take a big jump forward from there given his previous record fresh. In addition the second start back after a long absence is always a difficult one to predict and it was a searching test at the weekend given the ground. He's entitled to sharpen up for it but never threatened to take Cue Card out of his comfort zone. If Coneygree goes to Kempton they may look to be even more positive and try to draw the sting out of last year's winner but that's far easier said than done. Cue Card for me.
VERDICT: NEIGH – Cue Card will again have the edge
Ben Linfoot: I'm not sure the possibility of Coneygree running in the Lexus is even factored into his current King George odds with the bookies, in the main, going 2/1 Cue Card and 5/1 about the Bradstocks' pride and joy. Watching Saturday's race, I'm finding it very difficult to argue a case for Coneygree turning around that form at Kempton if he does turn up, as he'll need to find a career-best from somewhere – a performance better than his Gold Cup win – to beat a peak-form Cue Card. Even if he does improve from this run, and that's not an absolute given, the gap to bridge is a significant one. The King George is tailor made for the new, improved, Cue Card, and given the choice of 2/1 about him or 5/1 Coneygree right now I'd go with the first bet every time. He can add his name to the all-star cast of horses that have won the race more than once down the years.
VERDICT: NEIGH – Hard to see where the significant improvement needed will come from
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