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Coneygree ruled out of Christmas clash after poor workout

Coneygree will miss the King George next week
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Leading 32Red King George fancy Coneygree was ruled out of the Boxing Day showpiece on Sunday after failing to sparkle in a gallop on Saturday.

The 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, who was as short as 9-2 for the Kempton showpiece, was reported to be "not 100 per cent" by Sara Bradstock, wife of trainer Mark.

However, the third favourite's defection evidently does not make it more likely that the King George will be the target for outstanding novice Thistlecrack, whose stablemate Cue Card heads the betting at evens with the sponsor.

While there was no news from trainer Colin Tizzard on that score, it was confirmed that Coneygree's absence has encouraged connections of Peterborough Chase winner Josses Hill to supplement for the race on Monday.

The Bradstock team had talked of seeking revenge at Kempton for the defeat Coneygree suffered at the hands of Cue Card in the Betfair Chase, but the form their horse had been showing at home was missing when he worked on Saturday.

Sara Bradstock said: "I ride him in all his work and know every step he takes. He'd been in flying form last week but wasn't himself on Saturday.

"He just wasn't 100 per cent and there's no point running in the King George if he isn't right. It's important not to take any risks."

Bradstock said Coneygree would be fine to take his chance in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup, a race he famously won as a novice in 2015, and will be looking to give him a prep run.

"If everything is well we'll be looking at running him in either the Cotswold Chase [at Cheltenham] or the Denman Chase [at Newbury]," added Bradstock.

A tweet from Mark Bradstock Racing said: "We truly believe he will be as good as ever. Our priority is the Gold Cup."

As Coneygree was ruled out, Josses Hill was ruled in as owner Alan Spence confirmed he would be supplemented at a cost of £10,000.

"We're running now," said Spence. "We were in two minds but Coneygree is a front-runner and Josses Hill seems to run better from the front. The way of running wasn't the deciding factor but it certainly helped.

"It's hard to find out what else is going to run. The Irish don't seem to know or they are not telling, but we're definitely supplementing."

Josses Hill, trained by Nicky Henderson, ran out a ready winner at Huntingdon from King George entry Tea For Two and has scored twice over fences at Kempton, but he has yet to run over 3m.

Spence added: "He goes round Kempton and he's very well. The other factor is that the next suitable race is in February at Ascot, which is a long time from running at Huntingdon.

"The unknown is whether he'll get the extra half a mile but he's been impressive in his two runs this year and he always runs well at Kempton. There are more pluses than minuses. Noel Fehily will ride him again."

The going at Kempton is currently good, good to soft in places, but rain is expected at the end of the week.

Clerk of the course Barney Clifford said: "We've had two dampish days, which have helped, and it will be cooler at the start of the week before milder weather is forecast, bringing between 12mm and 18mm of rain on Friday and Saturday.

"Based on the forecast, I think good to soft would be a fair call for Boxing Day."

He had been in flying form last week but was not himself on Saturday
E.W. Terms