French test for Coneygree
Coneygree is in line for a potential shot at the French Champion Hurdle following his magnificent effort in defeat in last week's Punchestown Gold Cup.
The seriously talented but fragile 10-year-old was making his first appearance since filling the runner-up spot in the Betfair Chase at Haydock in November, and only his third start since becoming the first novice in 41 years to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2015.
However, there were no signs of any ring rustiness from Mark Bradstock's charge as he made much of the running and stuck to his guns admirably to finish third behind this year's Cheltenham hero Sizing John and Djakadam in a pulsating finish.
There was a brief scare for connections after Coneygree returned with swelling to his near-hind leg, but a week on, he is reported to be in rude health back at his Oxfordshire base and an appearance at Auteuil on June 11 is under serious consideration.
Sara Bradstock, assistant to her husband, said: "All is very good and he's in very good spirits.
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"We did take him to the vets on the night of the race, but we were just being careful really. He banged his joint and it was bruised on the front, but he's fine now.
"He ran a great race and it brings a tear to my eye when I think about it. Even after the injuries he's had, he's so brave and it was an incredible effort really.
"We could go to Auteuil for the French Champion Hurdle. I've got a few people looking at the ground as I've heard mixed opinions – some people say it's beautiful soft ground and others say it's a bit patchy.
"He obviously hasn't had much racing and we've always been of the opinion that when he's sound, we should get all we can out of him.
"But safety is obviously the most important thing. I know they make sure the ground is soft, but it needs to be consistent."
Looking further ahead, Bradstock would relish a potential rematch with Jessica Harrington's Sizing John.
She added : "I think one of the most exciting thing is I half had it my mind Sizing John might whoosh past us, but after watching the race the other day, on a bit softer ground, or with a run under our belts or over a bit further, we might have the beating of him."
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