Coneygree has not been seen since winning at Sandown last yearPICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Coneygree 'in great nick' as Bradstocks plot return
THERE is no reason why Coneygree cannot return to the form that last year helped him become the first novice since Captain Christy in 1974 to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup, according to connections.
The strapping nine-year-old has a shiny, new all-weather gallop to help get him fit for his return to action but when that will be remains unclear as trainer Mark Bradstock and his wife Sara will be guided by the weather.
Options include the £100,000 bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby on October 29 or Haydock's Betfair Chase three weeks later.
The Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury on November 26 is another potential target for the popular star whose campaign last term was derailed by a hock injury.
Absent since a smooth win in a Listed chase at Sandown in November, Coneygree is 14-1 with Sky Bet and Paddy Power to regain the Gold Cup at Cheltenham, which is his ultimate aim.
"He's started to swing along and he's in very good nick," Sara Bradstock said. "The vets are delighted with the healing and there's no arthritic change in any of the places he had the little bony defects.
"Fingers firmly crossed, but everything seems to be absolutely fine at the moment and we're aiming to have him ready for when the ground is good to soft or softer.
"He's doing everything very pleasingly. He feels great and seems to have retained the old engine. He's nowhere near fit and I haven't let the handbrake off, but everything he does makes me think he's the same horse."
Conditions to dictate plans
Discussing plans for Coneygree, Bradstock stressed the need for rain to help put the finishing touches to the son of Karinga Bay, although the horse's core fitness has been helped by the installation of a new all-weather gallop near their Letcombe Bassett base on the outskirts of Lambourn.
She added: "There's the Charlie Hall, the race at Haydock and then the Hennessy. Obviously you'd rather not go to the Hennessy first time out, but we'll be guided by the ground.
"Sometimes it stays dry all through September and you need a lot of rain to get into the ground. Even now we're getting bits and bobs of rain and everything is like concrete.
"The great excitement is we have a new, state-of-the-art all-weather gallop, which is very helpful and Max [Coneygree] loves it - he's doing all of his work on it. It's broken the bank, but we're hoping he can pay for it!
"It's the same length - a mile with a good pull - as the woodchip one the captain [Tim Forster] put in, but that decayed over the years.
"Having had an injury he wouldn't run until we can get him on the grass, but he can do everything until his last few gallops on it, so it's a real help."