Former Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Coneygree has had a racecourse gallop at Ffos Las in preparation for a run in the Punchestown Gold Cup later this month in Ireland. Mark Bradstock’s runner missed the Cheltenham Festival with a setback, but connections are delighted with the work he did at the Welsh track in his public exercise earlier this week.
Coneygree’s return to action after over a year off the track came back in November, where he finished second behind Cue Card in the Betfair Chase at Haydock. The 10-year-old was in contention with two fences to jump but was one-paced in the closing stages where he was unable to go with the defending champion.
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The former Cheltenham hero was expected to line up in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day; however, he had to miss that Grade One contest following a poor workout in preparation for the race.
Heading into the Punchestown Gold Cup, Coneygree can be backed with the bookmakers at 7/1 to triumph. The race in Ireland comes after what has been a long and hard season for many of the runners in the field. Bradstock’s horse, on the other hand, will be fresh. As long as he has recovered from his injury, he should be able to be at least competitive at Punchestown.
It is easy to forget that Coneygree still has very little experience over fences. Connections were ambitious to run the horse in the Gold Cup rather than take the traditional novice route; hopefully, they can still reap the rewards they deserve for taking a chance with their talented stable star.
The favourite for the feature race at the Festival later this month is Sizing John. After his success in the Cheltenham Gold Cup last month, Jessica Harrington’s chaser is now the highest-rated horse in the field at 168. Since moving up to 3m+, the seven-year-old has shown a large amount of improvement.
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Sizing John ran second behind Douvan on seven occasions at 2m. His first step up in distance was in the Kinlock Brae Chase back in January at Thurles, where he ran over 2m4f. In that race, he was successful ahead of Sub Lieutenant and Black Hercules, respectively. His next assignment was in the Irish Gold Cup, where he had his first taste of 3m. Harrington’s runner seemed to enjoy the test at Leopardstown and he out-battled Empire of Dirt for the first prize in the run-in to the finish line.
There is no doubt that Sizing John is arguably the best horse in the division at the moment. However, he is short enough now at 5/4 in the betting. At Cheltenham, he went off at 8/1; therefore, if you are looking to back him now on the back of his success at the Festival, you have missed the boat.
Coneygree and Sizing John are likely to be fighting it out at the finish at Punchestown, where hopefully the fresher horse will just have a little more in the tank to hold off last month’s Gold Cup winner.
Tip: Coneygree to win the Punchestown Gold Cup at 7/1 with 888 Sport