Coneygree gets another chance to shine in Charlie Hall clash with Cue Card

Sat 4 Nov 2017

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By Racinguk.com staff

In what has very much been a stop-start career, Coneygree gets another chance to prove himself as one of the best chasers in training in the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.

One of the traditional starting points for horses with Gold Cup aspirations, Coneygree, of course, has already provided connections with a day they will never forget when Mark Bradstock's inmate became the first novice for 41 years to win the blue riband in 2015.

He runs without a penalty in the Charlie Hall as he has not won a race for almost two years, while any further rainfall will also be beneficial for the notoriously fragile 10-year-old, who is the general 9-4 favourite.

"We had him ready to go to Listowel in the summer, but got cold feet when the ground was very testing," Bradstock's wife, Sara, said on Friday. "Since then he did have a bit of a head cold, which held him up for a little bit, so we have been slightly rushed, but nothing too major.

"He'll obviously be better for the run, but the conditions of the race meant that we always wanted to come here, as long as the ground was suitable. Only Cue Card is rated above us, but he's got to give us weight. Once we didn't make Ireland we always wanted to come for this."

Coneygree's presence slightly overshadows the return of Cue Card, who won the Charlie Hall in 2015 and is a general 11-4.

The popular 11-year-old was a beaten odds-on favourite in the race last season, but changes to the conditions of the race mean he will carry 4lb less this year.

Colin Tizzard blamed himself for defeat last year, thinking he was not quite fit enough, but told At The Races: "We've been very wary of that and he's had a lot of work. He's had a racecourse gallop and Joe (Tizzard) schooled him earlier this week.

"He jumped a couple of hurdles and four fences - just ticking the boxes, really. He did improve vastly last year from his first run to his second. 

"Out of respect for the horse, we've got to make sure we're doing our bit and not going there pussy-footing around, thinking, 'This is Cue Card, he'll be fine'.

"When we took him for his racecourse gallop, at one time he'd have been running away for two miles, but this time he was behind the bridle. He still came six lengths away from a 156-rated horse, so he's just as good as he's ever been."

Nigel Twiston-Davies saddles Grand National fourth Blaklion and Bristol De Mai. The Naunton handler said of Blaklion: "It was a heroic effort in the National and he probably didn't quite get home on the day.

"He came back in good form. He has been good over the summer and we are really happy. It is difficult with a horse of his class where you go but we thought we would start here and go for the Becher Chase next.

"We had one or two off-days last season with Bristol De Mai but for the most he was superb. He is in really supreme form and he should go well."

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Definitly Red suffered misfortune when his saddle slipped in the National, but prior to that was an easy winner of the Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster.

"Definitly Red is in good form and we are very happy with him," said trainer Brian Ellison. "But looking at the race, he will need to be in good form as it looks like a mini Gold Cup.

"Touch wood, he normally runs well fresh. He has been away and galloped, ad looks a million dollars at the moment.

"I think he is going to be up to it. He showed last season that he likes Wetherby and he was impressive again when winning by a long way at Doncaster."

Dan Skelton runs Virgilio and his brother and jockey, Harry, said: "He is taking on the big boys. It is a big step up in class but he deserves to take his chance in it."

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