Racing UK

Colin Tizzard grip on Gold Cup tightens after Coneygree ruled out

Monday 9 January 2017

By Geoffrey Riddle

Colin Tizzard’s grip on the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup tightened on Monday when former Blue Riband winner Coneygree was ruled out of the Festival showpiece.

Coneygree had been as short as 8-1 to reclaim his 2015 Cheltenham crown but was scratched ahead of the entry stage on Wednesday due a ‘niggling injury.”

The ten-year-old has been restricted to just one run this season when chasing home Cue Card in the Betfair Chase at Haydock in November and missed the King George VI Chase won by current Gold Cup favourite Thistlecrack.

At current best prices Tizzard is now 2-5 to land his first Gold Cup.

"I'm afraid it's (Gold Cup) not going to happen, which is a real shame,” Sara Bradstock, assistant and wife of trainer Mark, said.

"When you have a horse like this you must not take any risks and there is no point going there half-baked.

"He has just niggled the bone, where the cannon bone meets the knee. He is still walking at the moment, but we must not take a risk as these niggling things can turn into fractures.

"We will not rush him and we will make sure he is fine before he comes back.

"He will do plenty of swimming and other stuff. Hopefully he will go to Punchestown and win the Irish equivalent."

She added: "We might just give him a change of scenery and run him in the French Champion Hurdle, which is over three miles and is usually run on soft ground.

"He might possibly make Aintree, but only time will tell.

"I think we ran him on ground we had not trained him on at Haydock, as it had only rained those two days there and there had been no soft ground to train him on.

"He ran a great race at Haydock, but he might have been feeling this coming on.

"He has no miles on the clock and I'm hoping he can become a veteran record-breaker and a novice record-breaker.

"He is in very good nick, mentally, and is full of himself."

Thistlecrack was a best-priced 11-10 with Betfair, Betway and Paddy Power on Monday morning but the best price available on the favourite now is Even money. Last season's Stayers' Hurdle winner is still odds-against with Betfair Sportsbook and Betway.

Stablemate Native River, who has won the Hennessy Gold Cup and Welsh National this season, has been shaved from 8-1 to 13-2 and is as short at 5-1 in a place.

Tizzard also has Cue Card in the mix, but the former Ryanair winner could try to reclaim his title in the Ryanair Chase instead.

Alary, who like Tolworth Hurdle winner Finian’s Oscar, was bought by Ann and Alan Potts with Cheltenham in mind, is a best-priced 25-1 for the Gold Cup and is likely to be seen first in Britain in the Denman Chase at Newbury next month. 

Coral are one of the firms who make Thistlecrack Evens, and the firm's spokesman believes Tizzard holds a string hand in general.

"Many of the other horses prominent in the Gold Cup betting are by no means certain to run in the race, the likes of Djakadam and Cue Card may run in the Ryanair while Don Cossack is coming back from injury, whereas both Native River and the unexposed Alary who was also backed this morning, are fit, well and confirmed as on target for the race," Simon Clare said.

William Hill make Thistlecrack a 4-5 chance and representative Jon Ivan-Duke said: “With Coneygree out of the Gold Cup, it looks increasingly likely that Colin Tizzard might train the Gold Cup winner. He’s got four in the Gold Cup market at this stage and by our betting percentages, he has a 2-9 chance of winning the blue riband event at Cheltenham."

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