Coneygree pleases in Newbury schooling session and is on target for the Ladbrokes Trophy
Sara Bradstock, assistant trainer to her husband Mark, talked enthusiastically about Coneygree’s schooling with David Bass up over three fences on the back straight today at Newbury’s gallops’ morning ahead of the Ladbrokes Winter Carnival.
This followed Congeygree, who won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2015, being pulled up on his first start of the season at Wetherby on November 4 with an over-reach.
The lightly-raced 10-year-old chaser has top-weight of 11st 12lb in the £250,000 Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury a week on Saturday (December 2) and is an intended runner (priced at 16/1 by the sponsor).
She explained: “We needed to come to the course today to check that Coneygree wanted to go and do it and he did.
“He took off out of David Bass’s hands at the second and measured the third brilliantly. We are delighted.
“The over-reach has healed and all seems well with it after the schooling session, which is very good.
“He is pretty much going to run in the Ladbrokes Trophy – anything can happen with him! That is the plan, we have always said that the Ladbrokes Trophy would suit him.
“His fitness is the worry. We would have been much happier if he had a race. There is not much we can do about that now.
“Nico (de Boinville) will be back on him for the race – David was very happy to join the list of people who are eligible to ride Coneygree and he did a very nice job.
“It would be wonderful to win the Ladbrokes Trophy again (the first victory came with Coneygree’s half-brother Carruthers in 2011). If the ground went heavy, Coneygree would not run and we can run Flintham (who also schooled today under daughter Lily Bradstock) off 10st. He is in good form. I don’t think we would run them both.”
Coneygree (left) and Flintham at Newbury today
Asked if she felt that Coneygree had another big race in him, she replied: “I truly believe he has.
“He feels really, really good. Last year was about getting him back from injuries. And now he just feels more competent. We healed the injuries but he is very clever and he had to know it was all OK. That is why we were so delighted with how he ran at Punchestown (a close third in the G1 Punchestown Gold Cup on April 26) and since then he has improved again for the confidence. Now, touching every piece of wood, he feels wonderful.
“He is running off 165 in the Ladbrokes Trophy. That is not a Gold Cup rating and you have to remember that every race he has run in he has carried 11st 10lb. He only has to carry 2lb more and he is a big horse. Every day I ride him out and I cannot pretend that I weigh 8st!
“What we won’t know until we do it is whether giving horses two stone makes it easier to go his gallop. He has never run in a handicap before, so it is a bit of worry that something with 10st will be able to go his gallop.
“He will very much go to the front as usual – he doesn’t have a turn of foot. If you rode him in the middle, he would finish in the middle.
“Coneygree had a week off after Wetherby because he had a bad over-reach, but he worked last week, has done so today and will do a couple of bits before the race.
“He is very fragile – if everything is right, we will run him. Every step he takes is a worry to me. I totally believe in him – he feels incredible. He is bouncy – he is full of himself. He is lovely.
“There is no reason why he should lose his ability. He has never had any speed to lose -a marathon runner goes on a lot longer than a sprinter and that is what he is – he just keeps going. Hopefully, he is as good as ever, if not better.
“I have not seen any deterioration in the horse. I thought the run at Punchestown was very good – I think he only made the mistake at the second last because the ground was a little bit fast for him.
“But Mr Smith (Phil – the BHA Head of Handicapping) put him down from 172 after that so I am happy – I like him!
“Flintham is likely to come here for the novice chase (the £40,000 G2 Ladbrokes John Francome Novices’ Chase on December 2) at the Ladbrokes Winter Carnival. He usually needs his first run (of the season) which is why we brought him here today.”
Mark Bradstock, who trains just north of Lambourn, added: “We schooled Coneygree yesterday. Sean Bowen came in because Nico had to go racing and that went very well as well.
“Then today – this was a walk in the park for him. I could not be any happier with what he did today, jumping three fences superbly.
“David, who had never sat on him before, was absolutely over the moon – he was wanting to go around again.
“There are still 12 days to go until the Ladbrokes Trophy, but I think he is in very, very good form. We thought he was in fantastic form going to Wetherby, but it just didn’t happen.
“Flintham is no fool – he was very unlucky not to win the Reynoldstown and amazingly enough he is still a novice so hopefully we will make the most of that.”
Carole’s Destrier worked at Newbury on this day last year and after his close second in the 2016 Hennessey Gold Cup, now the Ladbrokes Trophy, trainer Neil Mulholland was not surprisingly keen to come back to Newbury for another piece of work today.
Mulholland, who is based near Bath, commented: “We did the same with Carole’s Destrier this week last year. He is just going to stretch his legs and have a nice day out – a week on Saturday is the important time for him. They will more or less do a whole circuit of the course.”
The James King-ridden Carole’s Destrier (20/1) worked with stable companion Carole’s Vigilante, second in a recent Carlisle bumper.
American, the 7/1 second favourite for the Ladbrokes Trophy, also schooled over three fences down the back straight at Newbury today, with his big-race jockey Noel Fehily in the saddle.
The progressive seven-year-old chaser, unbeaten in three races over fences, is trained by Harry Fry in Dorset. He schooled alongside Overtown Express, with Slippers Madden in the saddle. American led the way and jumped soundly.
Fry said: “Overtown Express is going to run in the two-mile Ladbrokes Handicap Chase on the same day as the Ladbrokes Trophy.
“That was ideal. We took American to Wincanton 10 days ago and he has come on nicely for that.
“It was perfect to jump the last three fences in the back straight today. He strode on through and Noel was very happy, so with 12 days to go it is all systems go.
“Rain looks forecast and the conditions out there were perfect for him today so a bit of rain should keep it much the same for December 2.
“He is a horse who does not run too regularly and everything is about a week on Saturday. The Ladbrokes Trophy is the target and is a huge race. We are looking forward to it.
“Hopefully, Coneygree will run to keep the weights (11st 4lb) spot on for us. American did nothing wrong over fences last season, winning all three. He was very good at Warwick and then at Uttoxeter, Rock The Kasbah was second and he has gone out and won well at Chepstow.
“It is good form and I wouldn’t want to swap American with anything in the race and I know Noel wouldn’t either.
“This is a step up for him definitely. We have just been governed by the ground to date, because he was going for the RSA at Cheltenham in March but the ground dried up.
“Noel has always ridden him pretty handily, but we don’t have to make the pace. He goes a good gallop and jumps. One of his strongest points is that he jumps brilliantly, which is what has won him his races to date – he jumps and stays. A track like Newbury will really suit him. Come the Ladbrokes Trophy, if something wants to go faster then we will let them get on with it – he is straightforward from that point of view.
“We have to mind American in terms of giving a few easy days after this work. He struggles with his knees and therefore we don’t graft him back to back.
“It takes a time for everything to settle down after a run. It is obviously a big ask coming for a race like this first time out, as he has not run since March, but that is why we went to Wincanton and came here today, to get him spot on.
“We are happy where he is and when he has been right, he has been very good so far over fences. Hopefully, he has lots of improvement up his sleeve – he will need it.
“He is a second-season chaser and they do have a good record in the Ladbrokes Trophy. We are going to find out in this hugely valuable race, thanks to Ladbrokes sponsorship. ”
American (Noel Fehily up) with trainer Harry Fry
Top staying hurdler Unowhatimeanharry is going to run on the first day of the Ladbrokes Winter Carnival, Friday, December 1 in the G2 Ladbrokes Long Distance Hurdle.
Fry commented: “That is the plan and hopefully we will have a nice team for the two days.
“Unowhatimeanharry was so well at home that we decided to run him at Aintree. He was bursting to run and the race fitted in perfectly.
“He came out of that race perfectly and did the job. It is going to be a good race. We will be giving Thistlecrack 6lb as he has lost his penalties, having spent a year over fences. That will be an intriguing and fascinating race.
“He is in good order, though we know how good a horse Thistlecrack is so even a half-fit Thistlecrack is going to be a formidable opponent. We will be there to take our chance and see how it goes.”
Champion trainer Nicky Henderson worked three this morning. Champion Hurdle winner Buveur D’Air, who is being prepared for the G1 Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle on December 2, was joined by Divin Bere and Charli Parcs.
Henderson was on hand to give an update on his Ladbrokes Trophy candidates Whisper and Vyta Du Roc.
Henderson said: “To be fair, second-season chasers have a very good record in the Ladbrokes Trophy, although it is not as if Whisper is that young (nine).
“Years ago when I was thinking of which race to go for with Trabolgan, it was Mike Dillon of Ladbrokes who told me to look at the Hennessy as it was back then. He said you are so well in and it doesn’t matter if you are top-weight. He was dead right – second season chasers have a good record and it was the same for both Trablogan and Bobs Worth, who both won at Newbury after taking the RSA the year before.
“Whisper (8/1) very nearly won the RSA, it would have been thanks to Might Bite if he had, so in a funny way he is as near to the profile of Trabolgan and Bobs Worth as you can get although he is not quite as young as they were.
“It was perfect being able to run at Kempton. Races like graduation and intermediate chases are vital. I know it was only a two-horse race at Kempton, but they were two good horses and there was nothing in it the whole of the way.
“I thought Vyta Du Roc (20/1) ran very nicely at Aintree over hurdles last time. He was second in the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown at the end of last year, beaten a head. It was frustrating, but we had such a good day up to then it didn’t feel quite so cruel. He comes into the Ladbrokes Trophy in good form.
“Newbury means a lot to me. It has been my local track since the first time I ever went racing. I got caught here escaping from school! Newbury is my home town and family. The Ladbrokes Trophy is Newbury’s showpiece and of course we want to win it.
“Looking over the two days, we have some nice horses pencilled in. I think Charli Parcs will almost certainly go for the Gerry Feilden (Ladbrokes Intermediate Hurdle on the Saturday) – watching him this morning I was very pleased.
“Sadly, Barry Geraghty will have to go to Newcastle to ride Buveur D’Air, but I will be at Newbury.”
Warren Greatrex brought four horses to Newbury today, headed by Ladbrokes Trophy hope Missed Approach (20/1).
Greatrex, who is based in Upper Lambourn, said: “Missed Approach is all set for the Ladbrokes Trophy. His work this morning will have put him spot on. He is a horse that doesn’t do a lot at home, so needs these away days to ignite the flame.
“I took him to Wetherby a few weeks’ ago and he just sulked when I put him back over hurdles. He definitely loves fences, has form around Newbury and has a lovely weight. It’s all systems go for the Ladbrokes Trophy.
“For me, Newbury is the best course in the country. The best horse generally wins here and it’s a big, flat, galloping track. We bring a lot of horses here to gallop and Richard Osgood and the team at Newbury are always brilliant to us.
“Newbury should suit Missed Approach down to the ground. Newbury is our neck of the woods, a home game for us. It means a lot to have runners here and to have winners is even better.
“Missed Approach’s weight (10st 6lb) is a great racing weight. He stays forever and is generally a very good jumper. It is important that he is on his game in the early part of the race as he can fall asleep early doors. He has had cheekpieces on in the past and we may yet go to blinkers, we’ll just see. There is only one Ladbrokes Trophy a year and we need to get everything right.”
Mike Dillon, Director of Media Affair at Ladbrokes, is eagerly-anticipating the Ladbrokes Winter Carnival. He said: “Fair play to Hennessy, for 60 years it was one of the most durable sponsorships there has been in horseracing and it is an absolute privilege for Ladbrokes to follow on from such great sponsors.
“This was once a three-day meeting and we felt that slimmed down to two days, and if we could get terrestrial TV coverage for the first day, it would impact greatly and very favourably on the meeting.
“We also felt that the Ladbrokes Trophy deserved a status as the second most-valuable handicap chase after the Grand National and that is what it is now with prize money of £250,000, while there is £700,000 on offer over the two days.
“What we are going to try and do is build this into a really big carnival. We are all set for a great start with Thistlecrack and Unowwhatimeanharry set to line up in the Ladbrokes Long Distance Hurdle on Friday.
“We are not going to rest on our laurels. Whatever success we have this year, we will look and reflect and try to improve year-on-year.
“We are committed for five years and hopefully beyond that, so we are going to pick this up and run with it. We see the Ladbrokes Winter Carnival as having a very important part in the National Hunt schedule.
“The Ladbrokes Trophy goes back a long way and some of the great horses of all-time have won it. Whoever is crowned the winner on Saturday week will be following in very famous footsteps. It is a terrific race and what National Hunt racing is all about. Owners and trainers strive to have a runner in race s like this and we are eagerly looking forward.
“I think a measure of the popularity of the Ladbrokes Winter Carnival can be seen by having a gallop and schooling morning for horses today and over 200 Newbury annual members turning up. That just illustrates how terrific it promises to be.”
Richard Osgood, Clerk of the Course at Newbury, explained the ground conditions.
He said: “I walked the course this morning.
“The hurdle course is just on the easier side and is Good to Soft, Soft in places, while the chase course is Good to Soft.
“We are forecast a bit of rain later on this week, but not a lot, about five millimetres. We are trying to provide fresh ground and we will move rail overnight from the Friday into the Saturday so we have the best ground possible on the two days of the Ladbrokes Winter Carnival.”
Julian Thick, Chief Executive of Newbury Racecourse, is eagerly anticipating the Ladbrokes Winter Carnival.
He said: “We are part-way through a long-term investment programme to make up for probably 25 years of under-investment.
“We started with the stables, then moved on to the owners and trainers and we are starting to redevelop the public facilities – a real statement of intent from Newbury Racecourse of what we want to do for all our customer groups.
“We were delighted to conclude sponsorship arrangements with Ladbrokes – it is a five-year deal – and I will give you an example of how they want to build the Ladbrokes Trophy. When we were explaining the events we do in the run-up to the race meeting, this gallops morning is usually a media-only event.
“Mike said why cannot your members come – you have these great facilities here and lots of information? As you can see, Ladbrokes are keen to build on everything we do and make it that little bit better.”