Coneygree camp fear Cue Card more than Thistlecrack
Coneygree has more to fear from Cue Card in the King George VI Chase than his stablemate and Gold Cup favourite Thistlecrack, according to Sara Bradstock.
Last year's Gold Cup winner is 'angry and hungry' for revenge over his Haydock conqueror Cue Card was the message from the Coneygree camp ahead of the 32Red-sponsored showpiece at Kempton on Boxing Day.
But Bradstock, wife of trainer Mark and who rides out Coneygree twice a day, said: “I can honestly say I'm very frightened of Cue Card but not Thistlecrack. Watching Thistlecrack in his races, he is getting to the other side of his fences but he is in the air not jumping them at pace.
“It is a tall order to go Coneygree pace and it will take him out of his jumping comfort zone, not his galloping zone.”
Bradstock reported the Gold Cup winner was ready to serve it up to his Betfair Chase conqueror Cue Card. Asked how Coneygree was in preparation for the rematch, Bradstock said: “He has come out of Haydock a little angrier and wanting it a bit more. I want people to believe he is the greatest.
“I always thought with the £1 million bonus Haydock was the difficult place where he could get beaten as they quicken into the home straight.
"Coneygree was extraordinary after the race. You expected him to be tired but he was wound up. He stopped blowing quickly and he wanted to go again.
"There is plenty of improvement in him and he didn't really get up to full speed at Haydock. I think Kempton is perfect for him – he can keep serving it up to Cue Card and the only way we can beat Cue Card is to get him working to get to us.
“I want to see him [Cue Card] having to race and be pushed along before he gets to us and would then be hopeful we can win the battle.”
The weather could yet intervene to ruin the exciting Boxing Day climax, not through traditional freezing temperatures, which are not forecast, but because of a lack of rain.
Bradstock added: “I am fearful Kempton is going to be too fast after Haydock was too soft. He is fussy about the ground and it would have to be good to soft or soft. If it is good, we would have to walk it to check it was not any faster. If he didn’t go to Kempton, he wouldn’t run over Christmas.”
The Betbright Trial Chase at Cheltenham on January 28 or the Denman at Newbury would come into the reckoning as Coneygree’s Timico Gold Cup prep.
“They would be possibilities and have attractions and Nico [de Boinville] would be back to ride him," added Bradstock.
Dual King George winner Silviniaco Conti, one of 21 horses still in the Boxing Day feature, could yet line up again. Trainer Paul Nicholls said: “I'm not going to rule him in or out but, if the race cuts up, he could run again.”
Nicholls is a fan of Thistlecrack whom he nominated as "a massive danger to them" and "the one to beat if he runs".
Willie Mullins is entering not only last year’s Champion Hurdle winner Faugheen, but also Vroum Vroum Mag in the 32Red Christmas Hurdle .
After Alan King confirmed Yanworth would be dropping back to two miles for the Grade 1, Nigel Twiston-Davies confirmed The New One, fresh from his International Hurdle win, would also be in the line-up.
“It will be the test for him. The front-running ride could be the making of him and if he runs well it would be the Champion Hurdle route, and if he gets beaten he will probably go longer.”
The ground at Kempton on Boxing Day is expected to be good to soft with no forecast of freezing weather.
Director of racing and clerk of the course Barney Clifford said on Monday: “This morning the ground was good and the forecast shows sporadic rainfall over the next ten days and mild weather. The forecast is for one of the mildest Christmases on record and I'd say the King George will be run on good to soft.”
Kempton is expecting to welcome another bumper crowd to more than match last year’s 20,000 as reserve seating has sold out and advance sales are ahead of last year.
Racegoers are advised to book for both the premier and paddock enclosures as they are expected to sell out before Christmas.